My new novel: The Talking Competition

Available now from completelynovel.com. Coming soon to Amazon etc.

Nyree Brennan lived off the fat of the land. She was 100% pure New Zealand – as the tourist ads on the London Underground would have it – bloated with Spring lamb, butter and cream.

To escape the fallout from a racist incident fuelled by her nicotine cravings, Nyree is sent by one daughter in Aotearoa (New Zealand) to another in London. The reader is taken into the lives of her offspring to witness the contest between disharmonious voices engendered by family conflict and the dynamics of colonial legacies.

Cover picture courtesy Bill Angus and Estate of Rita Angus. Self portrait (1936-37) by Rita Angus.

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What Makes Pakeha Tick?

 

Ahead of the publication of my forthcoming novel The Talking Competition, I’m posting this article written as an afterword for the book. The notion of an afterword arose after a couple of readers asked for some background to the politics of the situation.

 

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Photo: Marion Macalpine

 

The greatest difficulty is that no one has any idea of what Pakeha society is and how it ticks. In the search for equality Maori leaders are asking that the cultural ethos of the Pakeha be not taken for granted and that it be studied in the same way Maori society has been dissected … Lately, the worm has turned and is asking that Pakeha be subjected to the same scrutiny and documentation.

Patu Hohepa[i]

 

 

If Pakeha were to be anthropologised in the manner in which they have anthropologised Maori, it would be difficult to distinguish them from their kith and kin: European settlers who’ve imposed themselves worldwide – white South Africans, white Australians, the Anglo settlers who landed on Plymouth Rock or Europeans who dispossessed the Palestinian people. Only the indigenous symbols they’ve appropriated will mark them out under the microscope: the silver fern, the kiwi, the springbok, the maple leaf, hummus and falafel. It would be handy if Pakeha observed what’s on the slide too, so we can see ourselves as others see us, through the rigorous lens of indigenous discourse.

Decades ago the Jamaican writer, Olive Senior, giving a reading at Centerprise Bookshop in Hackney during her London book launch, challenged European writers present to tell the ‘other side’ of the colonial story. I took that to mean that white writers were being asked to reflect the colonial narrative from the inside, forging an anti-colonial perspective. Bearing this in mind, the characters in The Talking Competition emerged from a dysfunctional white settler, colonial society, much like the one described by Ani Mikaere:

 

Pakeha people carry an enormous burden of guilt about the way in which they have come to occupy their present position of power and privilege. They also have a deep-rooted insecurity about the illegitimacy of the state that they have attempted to create on Maori land – consequently, Pakeha have developed a range of strategies to deal with their guilt and their insecurities. These may be summarised as follows: selective amnesia – the ability to forget vast chunks of history as and when it suits – denial and distortion of the truth – an insistence for example, that colonisation was overwhelmingly a positive experience for Maori, an obsession with looking forward rather than back – the constant fear of looking over one’s shoulder for fear of having to own up to what has been done in the past; and the determination to cast oneself in the role of victim – the belief, for example, that any initiative designed to assist Maori is automatically detrimental to Pakeha.[ii]

 

Personal experiences, fictionalised in The Talking Competition, helped shape my perception of ‘what makes Pakeha tick’ – the kid in the park who refuses to thank a Maori man for retrieving his football from the pond, lack of respect for Maori language and place names, the frequent claim ‘we conquered them,’ ‘it’s only human nature,’ ‘they killed the Moa Hunters and we killed them.’

Frustration that Pakeha cannot quite put the final nail in the coffin of Maori sovereignty is made explicit in efforts to close down discussion: ‘We conquered them and that’s the end of it!’

It was a given, where I was born, that it was normal for my family to be ensconced in a place as far away as it was possible to go from our origins and be part of the occupation of another people’s land. We never gave a second thought to the indigenous inhabitants and, because of our denial it was impossible for us to properly ‘grow up.’

Maori were not dispossessed solely by warfare. The colonists were obliged to concoct an infamous treaty, the repercussions of which rumble on today because colonisation itself is ongoing.

Over 50 years ago, when I was at school, Edward Gibbon Wakefield, the Church Missionary Society, the New Zealand Company and ‘planned colonisation’ were imprinted in my infant consciousness. Poor but respectable, ‘hard-working families’ (to borrow a current neo-con cliche) were exported to the antipodes to avoid riots on the streets of Britain. Social engineering combined with naked colonialism, killing two birds with one stone.

We learned of refrigerated ships that had transformed the meat and dairy trade, making white farmers rich. We visited butter factories and were taken to a dusty museum where pink mannequins wearing Victorian garb were displayed, awkwardly scrambling over papier-mâché Port Hills. A stuffed kiwi gazed glassily out of an open-fronted box. Paintings by C.F. Goldie[iii] of Maori elders and soldiers in British uniforms wielding muskets adorned the walls. Some of us were taught to play the piano, others learned the bagpipes, or went to ballet classes, Highland or Irish dancing clubs.

At the same time, Maori children who were overheard speaking their own language in the playground were sent home or caned. Our school had a Maori name – Wharenui – yet we Pakeha kids were oblivious as to the word’s meaning, let alone its correct pronunciation.

Sir James Henare recalled being sent into the rainforest to cut a piece of piritu (supplejack vine) with which he was beaten for speaking Te Reo at school. In the 1930s, T.B. Strong, director of education, opined, ‘the natural abandonment of the native tongue inflicts no loss on the Maori.’[iv] Despite every effort to crush it, Te Reo was belatedly recognised as an official language in 1987 as the result of indigenous struggle.

Ethnographer Elsden Best[v] characterised Te Reo as ‘primitive’ and ‘a stone-age tongue.’ For a more up-to-date flavour of everyday Pakeha opinion on the language question, here’s a quote from the popular website, Kiwiblog:

 

… [regarding] compulsory Maori language in schools … surely we’d be better off for our future learning Mandarin or Cantonese? Is aboriginal compulsory in Australian schools? Is Native American compulsory in American Schools? Is caveman compulsory in South African schools?

 

Matthew James Cotter[vi] points out that the language used by many Pakeha to hammer home their domination is a significant factor in stereotyping, belittling and ridiculing indigenous people. The boutique brewery that self-consciously adopted the brand name Why Kick a Moo Cow is continuing a tradition of brash, macho ‘kiwi humour’ that I remember from my youth. Put-downs like ‘take a Maori shower,’ or ‘do a Maori job’ are part of everyday conversation, while Te Reo is often referred to as ‘Bro Lingo.’ Anyone who doesn’t see the joke is branded ‘politically correct’ or a ‘wowser.’

From quotidian racism to the slippery, elegant language of Michael King, Pakeha give voice to the ‘patriarchal white sovereignty’ theorised by Aileen Moreton-Robinson.[vii]

After going to live in London in the 1960s and becoming involved in various political movements, I found my awareness of the dispossession of which I was a part sharpened. National liberation movements were rocking the world, the civil rights movement in the USA was on the rise, women and gay people demanded liberation and the Vietnam war was provoking mass protests.

From afar, I heard bewildering claims that New Zealand had ‘the best race relations in the world.’ Then, in 1968, Keith Sinclair (later Sir Keith) gave a paper at the University of Cambridge that still shocks for its shameless, crude racism: Why are Race Relations in New Zealand Better Than in South Africa, South Australia or South Dakota?[viii]

Sinclair, poet, historian and doyen of Pakeha patriarchy, presented a number of theories for this supposed exceptionalism at a time when racism and imperialism were being challenged globally.

Firstly, he appears to gloat, ‘Maoris (sic) were outnumbered [by 1860].’

Secondly, ‘the Maoris (sic) had to face up to adapting to the European culture … because ‘Maoris (sic) could not indefinitely retreat before the frontier of white settlement. New Zealand was too small for that.’

Thirdly: ‘Settlers did not need the Maoris (sic) for cheap labour.’

He asserts: ‘Europeans wanted Maori land, not labour. This meant that, once separated from their lands, the Maoris (sic) could be tolerated and ignored. But it also meant that they were not exploited as people, as human beings, and, again, that there was little daily contact and friction.’

There is no recognition by Sinclair and his admirers that the dispossession of Maori involved a totalitarian, imperial system that completely colonised Maori as human beings, stripping them of their culture and sovereignty. In parenthesis he adds: ‘Slavery was illegal when New Zealand was annexed.’ So that’s OK then.

As Donald Hinds points out, it was slavery that paid the bill for the European colonisation of Australasia:

The year Wolfe took Quebec from the French, Jamaica was Britain’s leading sugar-producing colony, and at that time the New England colonies were still loyal to the Crown. Thirty years were to slip by before the first settlement at Sydney, Australia, and nearly three-quarters of a century to the first colony at Auckland, New Zealand. It was the wealth from the West Indies which helped to make those schemes possible.[ix]

 

Sinclair’s unsavoury list goes on: ‘there is among the Europeans no feeling of sexual rivalry about or jealousy towards Maori males, as Europeans often feel towards Negroes in Africa and USA.’

Further, according to Sinclair, the settlers of Aotearoa saw ‘the Maoris’ as a superior kind of ‘savage’ and if any other Europeans were to bad mouth them, the white settlers would gallantly leap to their defence. He writes: ‘The author often noticed during World War II that though the crude “Kiwi” might speak of “bloody Maoris,” he would willingly fight any non-New Zealand European who criticised Maoris (sic).’

When he died in 1993, Sinclair was lauded as a national treasure and Stephen Chan penned a hagiographic obituary in the British newspaper, The Independent. One paragraph stood out, demonstrating the sexism and hypocrisy of Pakeha patriarchy:

In 1973, at the age of 50, Sinclair published his fourth book of poetry, The Firewheel Tree. It is a compendium of a model, middle-aged New Zealander, still energetic enough to bodysurf, to ogle the female researchers in the library, but full of social concern.[x]

From 1941-42 the writer Anna Kavan lived in Aotearoa with her lover, Ian Hamilton, before returning to England for the remainder of the war. Some of her surreal, apocalyptic stories were inspired by her spell Down Under. These were collected in Asylum Piece.[xi]

Horizon magazine (1943) published an article by Kavan in the form of a letter from ‘John’ asking her whether she thought he should settle in New Zealand after the war. Of course, it was taken for granted that the young Englishman had a perfect right to install himself there. All Kavan’s extraordinary powers of description were deployed in answering ‘John’s’ question.

You get … a feeling of the country being in opposition to man; to the white man, particularly … in my picture I see the endless will of the land to shake off the intruders sparsely settled upon it and return to its original somber and silent aloofness … no sounds but the sounds of water and wind and the outlandish chiming of bell birds in the vast antipodean hush … Land evolving without animals; land given over to strange birds, the flightless kiwi, the moa unadapted to danger and preferring disappearance to the compromise of self-preservation. Land so unaccommodated to animal life that huge and majestic trees, survivors of centuries of storms and earthquakes, succumb to the petty nibbling of deer.[xii]

I only came across this material after completing The Talking Competition and I was particularly struck by the way Kavan skewers a Pakeha-created town of my childhood memory by evoking both the ridiculousness and brutality of white settler occupation. It’s not difficult to understand why she decided to flee and take her chances under the bombs raining down on London:

It’s April, and from the poplar trees, through the stillness, the brown leaves are silently falling. The leaves are piled in front of the Freezing Works [abbatoir] like dead birds.

The city is indeterminate. It isn’t England and it isn’t anywhere else. It’s null, it’s dull, it’s tepid, it’s mediocre; the downunder of the spirit. The houses are drowsing, the leaves and falling, the flies are circling, trucks full of sheep’s carcasses clatter drearily over the railway bridge, the firescreen worked by the wife of an early settler moulders in the museum.

What you may call the leit-motif of all this is a quiet parochial slowness. People wander up and down the main streets staring into the windows of shops that are full of agricultural implements and meat pies. Everything’s shut, there’s nothing to do except go to the pub or the cinema, or, if it happens to be the right day, to the races.[xiii]

Imagine the howls of rage. Everything’s changed. We’re a café society now. We set up the Waitangi Tribunal. We’ve given land back! We were born here, what are we supposed to do? We’re all tangata whenua now.

Denial enables the dominant culture to narrate the histories of Maori and Pakeha as if they existed in two separate parallel realities with no acknowledgement of existential power relations. The dispossession of Maori is reframed to make it appear there is a petty disagreement between two equally entitled parties: the colonial settlers and the indigenous peoples whom they have dispossessed.

One of the most revered chroniclers of Pakeha history is Michael King whose The Penguin History of New Zealand[xiv] was the successor to Sinclair’s A History of New Zealand.[xv]

King sought to make a case for there being two cultures in New Zealand and hence two peoples equally entitled to be called indigenous.

In identifying my own culture as Pakeha, I do so as one who has always taken it for granted that I belonged in this land. It’s true that there was in my childhood a notion that we could have been displaced Irish, but that receded as I grew up. My people, predominantly remnants of the Irish diaspora, came here to a country where the first indigenous people had made a treaty with the Crown that permitted colonisation and gave us those two streams of people with rights to be here, tangata whenua and tangata tiriti, to use Eddie Durie’s characterisation of them.[xvi]

All this smacks of the imperative to dilute Maori sovereignty by shouting ‘Me too!’ King and others exalt ‘the rugby culture’ as evidence of indigeneity rather than simply as part of a macho culture that grew out of colonialism itself.

Of his bicultural model King writes that it was ‘very useful for Maori to make a case that they were a major element in the New Zealand equation.’ Make a case to whom? Larissa Behrendt threw some light on this when she wrote: ‘Reconciliation is promoted as the dominant story,’ pointing to the use of the name ‘Aotearoa/New Zealand’ as signifying the Pakeha attempt to impose dual sovereignty and biculturalism.[xvii]

Another aspect of ongoing colonial oppression has been described by Tuck and Yang as ‘settler moves to innocence.’

Settler moves to innocence are those strategies or positionings that attempt to relieve the settler of feelings of guilt or responsibility without giving up land or power or privilege, without having to change much at all. In fact, settler scholars may gain professional kudos or a boost in their reputations for being so sensitive or self-aware. Yet settler moves to innocence are hollow, they only serve the settler.[xviii]

How does a state, forcibly superimposed on the society it has supplanted, achieve innocence? Is there a length of time by which such a state can be said to be legitimate? Israelis, for example, are envious of the apparent fait accompli achieved by European settlers who, as they describe it, ‘founded’ Australia and New Zealand.

Naftali Tamir, a former Israeli ambassador to Australia and New Zealand, completely identified with the White Australia policy by tapping into shared racism. ‘Israel and Australia are like sisters in Asia,’ he said. ‘We are in Asia without the characteristics of Asians. We don’t have yellow skin and slanted eyes. Asia is basically the yellow race. Australia and Israel are not – we are basically the white race.’[xix]

Uri Avnery, a founder member of Gush Shalom, also looks Down Under for inspiration, ‘We proclaimed that the new nation is a part of the Jewish people, much as Australia is a part of the Anglo-Saxon people … ’[xx]

Revisionist historian Benny Morris writes: ‘Even the great American democracy could not have been created without the annihilation of the Indians.’[xxi]

Morris’s attempt at irony implies agreement with other neo-conservative historians who contend that human progress is impossible without the annihilation of indigenous peoples whom they define as ‘primitives.’

A few years ago, the former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, Jonathan Sacks, wrote to the Guardian complaining that as ‘Kiwis’ are not criticised for their dispossession of Maori, Israel should also be exempt from criticism. He ignored mass land occupations and core issues of dispossession, racism and poverty that remain unresolved due to the ‘doctrine of imperial petulance.’[xxii]

The quest for legitimacy manifests itself in Aotearoa through the Waitangi Tribunal, established in 1977, which provided a judicial smokescreen for the continued dispossession of Maori.

Andrew Sharp[xxiii] admits the possibility that the Waitangi Treaty is not the legal guarantor of shared sovereignty and he toys with the idea that the treaty may be null because the Crown reneged on its terms and the chiefs who signed it were not empowered to do so. But he goes on to lambast Donna Awatere for ‘remarkable aggression’ claiming that her defence of indigenous sovereignty, ‘ran counter to Maori customs of politeness.’ He shows no respect for protocols while singling out the tradition of treating visitors with respect and hospitality, ignoring the fact that the visitors in question used force and corruption to impose their rule upon the indigenous people.

For Maori without sovereignty we are dead as a nation. It is not sovereignty or no sovereignty. It is sovereignty or nothing. We have no choice.’

Donna Awatere[xxiv]

Sharp opines that Awatere’s voice was unduly influenced by ‘European elements’ and ‘corrupted by a western world.’ He decided to plump for white patriarchal sovereignty after all. His musings were backed by a four-year inquiry into the treaty’s legitimacy by the Waitangi Tribunal. When the tribunals findings were announced in November 2014, Chris Finlayson, the Attorney General and Treaty Negotiations Minister, moved quickly to ‘quell fears.’

‘There is no question that the Crown has sovereignty in New Zealand,’ he said. ‘This report doesn’t change that fact. The tribunal doesn’t reach any conclusion regarding the sovereignty the Crown exercises in New Zealand. Nor does it address the other events considered part of the Crown’s acquisition of sovereignty or how the treaty relationship should operate today.’

Meanwhile, a leading academic specialising in the treaty accused the tribunal of ‘distorting history.’ Professor Paul Moon, from Auckland University of Technology, said: ‘I was shocked by some of the statements contained in the report. This is not a concern about some trivial detail, but over the fundamental history of our country, which the tribunal has got manifestly wrong … this report may serve the interests of some groups, but it distorts New Zealand history in the process, and seriously undermines the tribunal’s credibility.’

Besides the question of who gets to determine the historical narrative, the issue of who decides indigenous ‘authenticity’ constantly recurs. Degrees of consanguinuity are called into question, even when individuals self-identify and grew up in Maoridom. Powerful global organisations such as UNESCO and major European museums have wrested a high level of control over the cultural heritage of First Nations, including the construction of Maori identity, through their input in deciding what is authentic. [xxv]

European visitors even post unfavourable reviews on Trip Advisor, complaining that Maori-owned businesses based on tourism such as the Tamaki Maori Village, are ‘inauthentic.’

Unsurprisingly, Pakeha have developed an overweening sense of entitlement, wielding power carelessly and unrelentingly. Indigenous sovereignty is a scary concept. They counter it by claiming an indigeneity of their own, based on attachment to the land, just as Israelis do, while defacing the landscape in the process of ‘taming’ it. Israel created the myth of ‘a land without a people for a people without a land’ and claim to have made ‘the desert bloom.’ Pakeha prosperity is based on flattening the rainforest to create paddocks that yield meat and butter on an industrial scale.

The legitimacy of the State of Israel within pre-1967 borders is explored at length by Karl Sabbagh in Palestine: A Personal History, a detailed account of Zionism as a colonial project. Sabbagh likens British manipulation of the Balfour Declaration in ‘Mandate Palestine’ to a card that had printed on one side: ‘The statement on the other side of this card is true.’ When reversed it says, ‘The statement on the other side of this card is false.’ [xxvi]

A moving testament by Yousef M. Aljamal describes his journey from Gaza to Aotearoa involving multiple barriers. On arrival, to speak at the National Conference on Palestine in Auckland in 2013, he instantly recognised and empathised with Maori.

 

I visited the National Museum in Auckland, where I saw my country’s name written on the wall of the Museum.

Fallen soldiers in Palestine were remembered. Palestine 1916–1918, Rafah, Gaza, and Beer Alsaba among other Palestinian towns were written on the wall. There was no Israel at that time. At that time, Palestine and Aotearoa

were both under colonial rule by Britain, “the Great Empire” as it’s usually described. Palestinians and Maori were subjected to the same brutality. Britain, again, was there to “share” their lands with them, to “enlighten” the backward people of Palestine and Aotearoa, to make them civilized, and most importantly, to make us feel grateful to the white man for doing all of this. There, I saw Maori performing their culture in their language, on their land. I felt associated with people whom I never before had met. I felt one of them.

They were colonized by Britain, the white man of the empire back in 1840. There, I imagined how “backward” Palestinians and Maori looked in the eyes of their colonizers before being exposed to the “civilization of the whiteman.”[xxvii]

 

 

My experience of the Moral Rearmament Movement in London in the sixties, including learning of the tragic death of African-American pianist, Phyllipa Schuyler, led me to investigate the connection between the MRA and the moralising tone shared by colonial settlers.

Frank Buchman, the movement’s founder, a big fan of Hitler, was involved in setting up Alcoholics Anonymous as a pathway to Jesus. The MRA gained a toehold in South Africa and Australasia in the fifties and was credited with strike-breaking in New Zealand.[xxviii] In the sixties, Prime Minister Keith Holyoake was a staunch supporter who sponsored the Westminster Theatre in London, an MRA front. In the UK, the sect’s greatest claim to fame was their creation of the National Viewers and Listeners Association, an outgrowth of the British Conservative Party, along with its cohort, the Monday Club. The NVLA, led by Mary Whitehouse, inveighed against the ‘welfare state,’ single mothers, gay people, working class/mass consumerism and trade unions. The Monday Club specialised in demonising immigrants.

The MRA was behind a march that I observed from the doorway of the American Associated Press where I worked in the photo library in 1968. Prime Minister, Ted Heath, had just sacked Enoch Powell from the Cabinet after the latter’s notorious ‘River’s of Blood’ speech. Powell had imagined ‘the River Tiber flowing with much blood’ if non-white immigration was not reversed. Meat porters from Smithfield Market marched down Farringdon Road wearing blood-spattered aprons and wielding cleavers, shouting ‘We’re backing Enoch!’

The New Zealand media reflects a similar punitive attitude, racism and culture of denial. Broadcaster, Paul Holmes, called Kofi Annan ‘a cheeky darkie’ and rugby world cup ‘ambassador’, Andy Haden referred to Polynesians as ‘darkies.’ The Broadcasting Standards Authority refused to uphold complaints. Holmes received a knighthood, the bestowing of which relies on yet another colonial trope, the monarchy. Haden’s job was saved because he was able to use the precedent of Holmes’ impunity.

In May 2016, Radio New Zealand’s Checkpoint programme ran an item exploring racist attitudes. Vox pop interviewee, Graham Bradley, while giving an assurance that he was not a racist, made an interesting statement that rewards unpicking: ‘What I can’t handle is even a white Pakeha that sits in the street begging for money and then goes down and buys liquor at the next opportunity.[xxix]

On the same programme, an anti-racist academic, Dr Raymond Nairn, noted, ‘People who support Maori in efforts to have a voice in politics, or to advance Maori interests, they’re labelled radicals, extremists, activists and seen as a threat.’

One example of what Dr Nairn was talking about was the way in which the media downplayed the enormity of the impact of colonialism when reporting an action against a statute of Captain Cook. Situated in Gisborne, the monument has been splattered with red paint over the face and crotch. Demands are growing for the statute to be replaced with one of Raikaitane, whose chieftanship spanned the time of Cook’s incursion. An editorial in the Gisborne Herald defended the Kaiti Hill statue.

Cook’s arrival near the mouth of the Turanganui River in 1769 marks the end of an era in which New Zealand was completely cut off from the outside world. The Maori people suddenly had to face off with the European technological world and their history changed irreversibly since then.

It is proper that we recognise when and where these cultures came into contact. The present statue is part of that recognition. [xxx]

 

Social media outlet Stuff covered the story in a more balanced way while still downplaying the role of Cook:

While Cook has never been accused of the kind of crimes that haunt the memory of fellow European explorer Christopher Columbus, historians provide his opponents with plenty of ammunition. Cook’s crew are said to have killed several Maori on his first voyage, and Cook was killed himself after apparently attempting to kidnap the king of Hawaii. His voyage also led to the European colonisation of New Zealand, a process which resulted in decades of death, disease, and cultural degradation of the Maori people. As such, Maori views on Cook are somewhat mixed.

Stuff reported, quoting environmentalist and indigenous activist Tina Ngata from Ngati Porou:

‘I don’t agree with any celebration or memorial to Captain Cook. If I were to tell you a story of someone who went up to another vehicle, decided he liked it, then when the other people tried to escape the vehicle shot and killed them – would you want me to put up a statue to them? No.

‘Yet this is exactly what Cook did in the Endeavour. He shot and killed Maori onshore as well.’

[Ms] Ngata said Cook’s voyage was an invasion, and the non-Maori version of history had already been told elsewhere. ‘There have been plenty of platforms throughout the last hundred years for the non-Maori version of events, for a non-Maori perspective.

‘Having both [statues] is not a dual heritage, it’s not biculturalism. Our ancestors didn’t invade England and kill the English. It’s not biculturalism, it’s imperialism.’

 

Colonial dispossession everywhere relies on cultural appropriation for extracting value and covering up expropriation. In December 2005, the Maori Party, issued the following press statement:

 

In considering the Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Bill today, the Maori Party wants to raise the issue of the protection and rights over the regionally-based products and produce of hapu and iwi. ‘Earlier this week I condemned the use of the Maori name in a brand of cigarettes called the I and M Maori mix brand, recently discovered in Jerusalem, Israel,’ stated Dr Pita Sharples…’it was a blatant example of the appropriation of an indigenous word and race, for commercial gain by a multi-national corporation’.

Dr Sharples referred to the draft declaration of indigenous peoples which states that:

‘Indigenous peoples are entitled to the recognition of the full ownership, control, and protection of the cultural and intellectual property.

‘That includes Maori words and names,” stated Dr Sharples.

‘Yet with this Bill introduced today, there is a real fear that the ‘naming rights’ attached to specific locations, could run rough-shod over Maori customary and intellectual heritage rights.’

 

In 2010 a film-maker called Tim McLachlan entered Your Big Break, a competition sponsored by Tourism New Zealand. The aim of the exercise was ‘to capture the spirit of 100% Pure New Zealand.’ McLachlan’s entry Frosty Man and the BMX Kid became a popular meme, shared widely on social media. A large, sunburned kiwi bloke with a white beard stands on a headland peering across a gorgeous bay at a spectacular ocean and landscape. There’s an ice cream van nearby. Along comes a Maori kid on a BMX bike who offers to dive into the sea for the price of an ice cream. It turns out the bloke’s name is God. The kid is only convinced after God takes a dive, swoops back up to the cliff and buys the admiring boy an ice cream. It’s all jocular and sweet, of course. Cute kid, play on kiwi cliché of God’s Own Country, leaving the viewer in no doubt as to the relationship depicted.

Booking.com produced a tourist video entitled ‘Maori advertisement in England’ in which a Pākehā woman leads a group of Maori singers in a dance. On paper the dance is protected by the United Nations’ Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples but in practice a multinational corporation has stolen cultural capital with impunity.

Both Apartheid Israel and Pakeha New Zealand are obsessed with their national image and have worked hard to rebrand themselves. Israelis and Pakeha also have something in common with privileged white Californians who complain, ‘I drive to work every day past homeless people…why should I have to suffer the distress of seeing them?’ Gentrification also has similarities with land confiscation and home demolitions such as those occurring in the West Bank.[xxxi]Indigenous people are seen as an embarrassment, a nuisance or raw material for cultural appropriation and tourism. They are outsiders in their own countries.

The media and arts are employed to make sure New Zealand is always presented as a white space, relegating indigenous people to the fringes. In 2016 the British Broadcasting Corporation aired a programme called New Zealand Chronicles narrated by Sam Neill in a portentous, tourist board voice. The second episode in the series featured Sirocco the Kakapo – he has his own Facebook page – to publicise the efforts being made to prevent the total extinction of the extraordinary parrot, along with countless other indigenous flora and fauna endangered by the stoats and feral cats introduced to the country by colonial settlers. Sirocco was flown from his sanctuary to be displayed in a glass cage at The Beehive in Wellington, New Zealand’s parliament. His keeper took the microphone to emphasise the importance of preserving Sirocco and his species, warning that were the Kakapo to be lost, ‘we will lose our identity.’ This was a neat demonstration of Pakeha co-opting native flora and fauna to establish themselves firmly as part of the landscape. The narrator spoke of the only Maori man portrayed in the film in the same tone as that adopted to describe other fauna.

Besides claiming to have the best race relations in the world, another of Godzone’s frequently mentioned virtues is its status as the first country ever to legislate for women’s suffrage. On the face of it, the 1893 Electoral Act gave all women the vote including Maori women. Other law changes in 1893 and 1896 completed the almost total separation of the Maori and European electoral systems. From then until 1975 only people with one Maori parent and one European parent were allowed to choose which seats they wanted to vote in. This historical fact concerning women’s vote is often quoted as a means of obscuring the reality of a macho-colonial society, fixated on rugby and the entitlement of ‘real men.’

Dr Pala Molisa comments, ‘Being a “real man” is defined by how well you can dominate others – whether on the sports field, at school, at work, or in your romantic relationships. If you can’t do this well, you won’t measure up. You’ll be called a “sissy”, a “fag”, a “homo.”’[xxxii]

New Zealand has let all women down by becoming the first country to legalise prostitution and in such a way that pimps and purchasers are privileged, while women are not protected. The New Zealand Model is a long way from the Nordic Model adopted in other countries. One of the oldest colonial tropes, the sale of women’s bodies is fuelled by huge disparities of power. It is indigenous women and Women of Colour who suffer most from lack of access to housing, education, work and health care. As Cherry Smiley writes:

To imagine that prostitution, a system that feeds these inequalities, should be allowed or encouraged, is dangerously misguided and supports the ongoing systematic harms against our women and girls. In the same ways that those who came before us were funneled into the residential school system “for our own good”, the attempts to now funnel us into the system of prostitution, and to support the rights of pimps and johns, is also being incorrectly portrayed as being for our own benefit and protection.[xxxiii]

When Dr Molisa argued in an article on E-Tangata that prostititution was a form of male violence, he was accused of being ‘whorephobic.’ He interviewed ‘Sally,’ a prostituted woman living in Auckland, who told him, ‘the men who use prostituted women know that the sex is unwanted. That is why they pay money to force it to happen anyway. They exploit financially vulnerable women in order to get away with rape.’

Dr Molisa concludes, ‘By fighting against the violations of prostitution, we’re fighting against the violations of global capitalism, in its destruction of indigenous peoples, lands, and ecological boundaries.’[xxxiv]

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark (in post during the passage of the legalisation of prostitution) hopes to win the post of Secretary General of the United Nations. Her bid to succeed Ban Ki Moon includes the claim that she worked with indigenous groups in the South Pacific. Her attitude to indigenous peoples was highlighted in her put-down of Tariana Turia when the Maori Party objected to privileging white British settlers over Asian Pacific ones. Clark attempted to position white settlers alongside Maori and non-white immigrants with her angry assertion, ‘It’s ridiculous, this country was built on migration. You’re part of it. I’m part of it.’[xxxv]

The current wave of desperate asylum-seekers and migrants fleeing war and invasion was made worse by Clark, who was hard-nosed in her support for the illegal actions of Bush and Blair.

It was under Clark’s watch that the 2004 Foreshore and Seabed Act was passed, described as the largest land alienation event of recent times. Hundreds of armed police descended on the Urewera mountain range near the town of Ruatoki and brutally arrested 17 people, accusing them of being ‘terrorists’.

Tina Ngata’s speech at the UN Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues in May 2016 eloquently questioned Clark’s willingness to stand up for indigenous rights. She also drew attention to the danger of indigenous medicine being exploited through the introduction of the National Products Bill. Ms Ngata said New Zealand was one of only four out of 150 countries that refused to sign the Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007. It has since been signed, with the Government showing its lack of commitment by describing it as ‘aspirational, non-binding’ and stating that it ‘will not alter the dealings the Crown has with Maori.’

Furious at Maori for refusing to go along with Helen Clark’s candidacy for the UN role, the Pakeha media accused the Maori Party of indulging in ‘hysterical crap,’ while they accused the Maori Party of treason.

Memo to the Māori Party; grow up, move on, get over it. 

Are you seriously putting historical petty politics ahead of Helen Clark’s taxpayer-funded bid for the top job at the UN? 

Yes, you most certainly are. I find it pathetic. 

Clark’s bid is NZ’s bid. It’s backed by the Government and all grown-up political parties – which happens to be all of them, except the Māori Party. 

Their opposition looks like treason, especially given all New Zealand taxpayers are helping pay for this Clark tilt at the job.[xxxvi]

 

Paul Henry of Newshub conducted a bullying interview with Marama Fox over her party’s stance on Clark, personifying patriarchal Pakeha behavior. He bellowed, ‘The foreshore belongs to the Crown, not Maori, so, in fact belongs to all of us.’ The video clip, still on line at the time of writing, is worth studying for an understanding of the deliberate baiting and insults that Maori have to put up with in the media. In this one interview Henry did more than enough to earn him a knighthood in the white supremacist honours list.

Britain is currently in turmoil following a referendum that resulted in the country leaving the European Union (an event known as Brexit). That decision has a bearing on the nature of Pakeha origins and denial.

White lies are the heart of Brexit. ‘We’ll be able to trade with our friends in New Zealand again.’ ‘Our Commonwealth friends will trade with us in place of the European Union.’ After all, it was due to colonisation that Britain was able to ‘punch above our weight.’ Britain still has a sense of ownership over Commonwealth countries. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has written in his Spectator column that the continent of Africa would be much better off if direct British rule had continued. Other of his forays into the world of diplomacy include his speculation that President Obama favoured the EU over the UK because of his ‘half-Kenyan’ heritage. He referred to Black people as ‘piccaninnies’ with ‘water-melon smiles.’ This is language that Moana Maniapoto is familiar with, as she describes an encounter at a bus stop with a woman who told her ‘I hope you have lots of nice little brown piccaninnies.’ She also reports, ‘like many Maori, my name has been mutilated over airport terminal speakers and misspelled more times than I’ve had hot breakfasts. Now, whenever anyone asks me to spell my name, I answer: ‘How about you spell it and I’ll correct you.’[xxxvii]

Meanwhile, back in Blighty, Prime Minister Theresa May was calling up Malcolm Turnbull who told her he was ‘keen to strike a trade pact with the UK ‘as soon as possible.’[xxxviii] He announced Australia will ‘team up with New Zealand in a bid to negotiate new trade and immigration deals in the wake of Brexit.’[xxxix]

For those in the UK who had coined the term Anglosphere, leaving the European Union has been a long-term goal. After following the Americans into Iraq and Afghanistan, the right had dreamed up a new conservative world order.[xl]

Pressured by parts of the Conservative Party who subscribed to this philosophy and fearful of the rise of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and the damage it may do to his electoral chances in 2015, David Cameron promised a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union. During a trip to Australia in 2013 Boris Johnson argued that when the UK joined the EU it ‘betrayed our relationships with commonwealth countries such as Australia and New Zealand.’

UKIP was boosted by a £1 million gift from Arron Banks, a former Conservative Party backer, with ‘a cluster of diamond mines in South Africa and a home in Pretoria.’[xli] Banks told The Guardian, ‘If I get up in the morning in South Africa their radio is like our radio – same with Australia.’ Further, ‘I don’t feel an affinity towards French, Germans and Spaniards. I’d much rather deal with my own kith and kin.’

Campaigning for Brexit, the group known as Better Off Out published a pamphlet that included a chapter entitled ANZAC: Kith and Kin.

The decision to abandon our long-standing trade agreements to become subservient to Brussels left the commonwealth behind. In particular, it left New Zealand, which had relied on Britain for much of its overseas trade, in the lurch with years of subsequent economic stagnation, until its own great deregulation of the late 1970s gave a kickstart to its economy, helping it to become one of the wealthiest, most equitable, and most desirable countries in the world in which to live today.

Despite this, there remains considerable affection for Britain in that most distant corner of the world – and let’s not forget that New Zealanders even recently turned down the chance to ditch their traditional, British-friendly flag. We are linked to these countries by law, language, customs and history – and let’s not forget that Australia and New Zealand have two of the most successful economies in the world, too.[xlii]

UKIP ran an entirely racist campaign based on the single issue of immigration, promising to give £350 million a week to the National Health Service if voters chose to leave the EU. Arron Banks got his way but the ailing NHS will not be getting any fresh funds.

Throughout their campaign, the Brexiteers, including Johnson, vigorously promoted the Australian points system as the model that Britain should follow in dealing with immigrants. Perhaps the Isle of Wight and the Isle of Man are earmarked to become the British equivalent of Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

Alice Te Punga Somerville ruminates on Brexit in a brilliant blog, posted the day after the result of the referendum. She quotes the arch imperialist, Lord Macauley, who envisaged ‘some traveller from New Zealand’ (‘New Zealander’ was the term used to refer to Maori people) overlooking a scene of devastation that symbolised the end of empire. In 1872 the artist Gustave Dore created a visual representation of Macauley’s vision.

… while the Maori person gazes at London, who’s gazing at the Maori person? In my case, it’s another Maori person. Specifically, a Te Atiawa/Taranaki person. It’s me: thinking about what it means to gaze at the ruins of London. It’s me: thinking about what it means to gaze at the ruins of the place which has left so much of my own country, my own people, and myself, in ruins.

In so many ways, the UK is a too-big dog which has run through a house and wagged its too-big tail next to a sidetable. And we – who used to be intact and distinctive and stable – are the smithereens and dust, scattered on the carpet..[xliii]

 

What would it take for Pakeha to recognise that their prosperity was built on the dispossession of another people? What would it take for a country that owes its prosperity to dispossession of another people to ensure that no indigenous person is left homeless, is living in poverty, is being discriminated against in the public health system, is jailed unjustly or missing out on the education of their choice? What would it take to make sure that the Paul Henrys of the airwaves are no longer regarded as the norm and are rendered unable to make a living from broadcasting racist bile? What would it take to acknowledge Maori sovereignty and start respecting it?

Pakeha are capable of problematising their whiteness, even of giving up on white supremacy; most just don’t want to. For Pakeha, without Maori sovereignty and self-determination, there is no possibility of developing a shared society free from colonial subjugation and discrimination. There is no possibility of turning aside ‘the unbearable torchlight of complicity, of having harmed others just by being oneself.’[xliv]

Maori people have demonstrated the same ‘summud’ – steadfastness and perseverance – as Palestinians and other indigenous people around the world, preserving their cultures, languages and lives against the odds. The rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in the USA and UK is the answer to the white supremacist Anglosphere built on the proceeds of slavery and colonialism.

As Naomi Klein says, ‘a concept of balance or harmony’ is ‘common to many indigenous communities … a world view … embedded in interdependence rather than hyperindividualism, reciprocity rather than dominance, cooperation rather than hierarchy.’

‘For descendants of settlers and newer immigrants [the process of remembering] begins with learning the true histories of where we live … coming to terms with how we ended up with what we have, however painful.’[xlv]

Elsewhere on the globe non-Native activists are beginning to fathom the link between indigenous rights and fossil fuel resistance. If indigenous peoples had retained stewardship of their lands, the crisis the Earth is now facing may not have become so acute. Pakeha could do us all a favour right now, by actually becoming the first at doing something wonderful: decolonise Aotearoa, be the first colonial settler society to accept indigenous sovereignty, recognise indigenous stewardship and traditional wisdom in Aotearoa and elsewhere. Give a lead, before the planet fries.

 

 

 

[i] Hohepa, P. (1978) “Māori and Pākehā; The One People Myth”, in M. King (ed.) Te Māori Ora: Aspects of Māoritanga, Methven, Wellington, pp. 99 & 109.

[ii] Ani Mikaere, Racism in Contemporary Aotearoa: a Pākehā Problem, 2011, Huia Publishers and Te Takupu, Te Wananga o Raukawa, Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand.

[iii] https://beyondvictoriana.com/2010/03/29/beyond-victoriana-20-charles-frederick-goldie-and-his-maori-portraits/

[iv] Kathie Irwin, ‘The Politics of Kohanga reo,’ New Zealand Education Policy Today, Critical perspectives. Ed. Middletobn, Codd & James, Allen & Unwin, Wellington, 1990. P.115

[v] http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/2b20/best-elsdon

[vi] Matthew James Cotter, The International Journal of Language, Society and Culture, 2007, Issue 22, p.52.

[vii] Moreton-Robinson, Aileen (2004) The possessive logic of patriarchal white sovereignty: The High Court and the Yorta Yorta decision. Borderlands e-journal Volume 3 (Number 2).

[viii] Keith Sinclair http://www.nzjh.auckland.ac.nz/docs/1971/NZJH_05_2_02.pdf

[ix] Donald Hinds, Journey to an Illusion, Bogle-l’Ouverture Press Ltd, 2001, London

[x] Stephen Chan http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/obituary-sir-keith-sinclair-1459112.html

[xi] Anna Kavan, Asylum Piece (1940) Peter Owen, London 2001

[xii] Anna Kavan, New Zealand: Answer to an Inquiry, Horizon (London) September,1943.

[xiii] Ibid

[xiv] Michael King, The Penguin History of New Zealand Penguin Books (NZ) Ltd, 2003

[xv] Keith Sinclair, A History of New Zealand (1959) Penguin 2000

[xvi] University of Waikato – An interview with Michael King https://edlinked.soe.waikato.ac.nz/research/project/item.php?id=11

[xvii] Behrendt, Larissa (2003). Achieving social justice : indigenous rights and Australia’s future. Federation Press

[xviii] Tuck and Yang, ibid.

[xix] Naftali Tamir, former Israeli ambassador to Australia and New Zealand.

[xx] Avnery, Uri. Sorry, Wrong Continent, http://zope.gush-shalom.org

[xxi] Shavit, Ari. Survival of the Fittest? Interview with Benny Morris, Haaretz, January, 2004.

[xxii] Moana Jackson, http://uriohau.blogspot.com/2007/10/moana-jackson-on-constitution-for.htm

[xxiii] Andrew Sharp, Justice and the Maori: Maori claims in New Zealand Political Argument in the 1980s. Auckland Oxford University Press, 1991 and Justice and the Maori: The Philosophy and Practice of Maori Claims in New Zealand since the 1970s, 2nd Ed. Oxford University Press, 1997.

[xxiv]Maori Sovereignty, Donna Awatere, Broadsheet, 1984

[xxv] Post Colonial Maori identities: authenticity and sincerity in Tourism Practices (2015)

[xxvi] Karl Sabbagh, Palestine: A Personal History, Atlantic Books, 2006.

[xxvii] Travelling as a Palestinian, Project Muse, Biography, Vol. 37, No. 2. Spring 2014, pub. University of Hawai’i Press.

[xxviii] Claims Moral Rearmament Broke NZ Strike, The Canberra Times, 28-10-1953, see trove.nia.gov.au

[xxix] RNZ Checkpoint: Media rhetoric reinforces racist attitudes,’ 11 May, 2016.

[xxx] Henry Cooke, Captain Cook Statue in Gisborne Repeatedly Defaced, stuff.co.nz, 1.8.16

[xxxi] Rebecca Solnit, Death by Gentrification:The Killing that Shamed San Francisco, The Guardian, 21 March, 2016

[xxxii] Dr Pala Molisa, E-Tangata, 6 Dec. 2015

[xxxiii] Cherry Smiley, Real change for aboriginal women begins with the end of prostitution, The Gobe and Mail, Jan. 14, 2015.

[xxxiv] Pala Molisa, Breaking the silence on prostitution and rape culture, E-Tangata, Dec 20, 2015

[xxxv] Paul Chapman, Daily Telegraph, 27 Feb. 2007.

[xxxvi]Duncan Garner, Newshub, 2 August, 2016

[xxxvii] Moana Maniapoto, The Racism too Few of the Privileged Can See, E-Tangata, 22 May, 2016

[xxxviii] Tim Ross, Daily Telegraph, 16 July, 2016

[xxxix] Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Francis Keany, 27 June, 2016.

[xl] Michael Kenny and Nick Pearce, The Rise of the Anglosphere: how the right dreamed up a new conservative world order.’ New Statesman, 10 February, 2015

[xli] Robert Booth, The Guardian, 27 March, 2016

[xlii] Betteroffout.net: Brexit, the UK and the Commonwealth – A Briefing Document.

[xliii] Alice Tepunga Somerville, A View of Brexit from Elsewhere, Once Were Pacific blogspot.com, 26 June 2016.

[xliv] Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang, Decolonisation is not a Metaphor, Decolonisation: Indigeneity, Education & Society, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2012

[xlv] Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything Allen Lane, 2014.

Why the New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective doesn’t get the first and final say on prostitution

As a rule, trade unions take their industries for granted. We’re not likely to see the president of a miners’ union speak out about fossil fuel extraction because of its connection to climate…

Source: Why the New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective doesn’t get the first and final say on prostitution

From farce to tragedy: thoughts on Jo Cox, the referendum and the rise of racism

Duncan Thomas on Jo Cox’s murder, the rise of racism in mainstream political discourse, and the need to build a strong anti-racist movement after the referendum – whatever the result. T…

Source: From farce to tragedy: thoughts on Jo Cox, the referendum and the rise of racism

In or Out, we must show solidarity with migrants and refugees. March with us on 20 June.

The EU referendum has dominated political debate, and the left is divided on which way – if at all – to vote. Yet it seems clear that, whatever the outcome, attacks on migrants and refu…

Source: In or Out, we must show solidarity with migrants and refugees. March with us on 20 June.

A letter to Jeremy Corbyn re prostitution

We realize that Jeremy has had rather a lot on lately! But we hope a dialogue on this crucial issue will be possible. @Lezzers4Jezzer

11 April 2016

Dear Jeremy,

Like many people delighted at last to have a ray of hope in our political landscape, I support your promotion of social justice, your principled stance re the racist treatment of asylum seekers and the rights of the Palestinians, and your opposition to the cruel austerity narrative and the right-wing economic policies that currently prevail.

In the wake of new legislation in France, I write with regard to your recent comments about prostitution. I appreciate your willingness to debate openly and would like to offer some thoughts on this issue.

There is a fundamental question to consider here: can a society that regards as legitimate the commodification and buying of (predominantly) women’s bodies for men’s sexual gratification and exercise of power truly call itself civilised? If not, what is the best way to work to end this trade in human bodies?

Those who advocate decriminalization of prostitution often argue that this represents a way of keeping vulnerable women and men as safe as possible, a principle all human rights upholders would surely support. I suggest that this safety cannot be achieved by reforming the status quo, that prostitution exists within a spectrum of misogynist abuses of women, and that joining with the movement to abolish prostitution would be the most progressive policy.

The French law will promote awareness of the harmful impact of prostitution and re-education of punters, France now being one of the European countries to follow the Nordic model which criminalises the demand for paid sexual access to people, decriminalises those who are so exploited, and offers exit routes for prostituted people, including education and training. Here, people have worked long and hard on initiatives that provide examples of alternative approaches which actively support and facilitate people to leave prostitution, e.g., the End Demand campaign http://enddemand.uk/ which puts responsibility on those buying sexual access and is supported e.g. by the Fawcett Society: http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/2014/10/end-demand-fawcett-supports-new-sexual-exploitation-campaign/

Icelandic feminists have shown that the sexual commodification of women can be ended, while Gunilla Ekberg, the Swedish government’s lead official on prostitution a decade ago, described the Nordic model as looking at prostitution as a form of male sexual violence. The law focuses ‘on the root cause, the recognition that without men’s demand for and use of women and girls for sexual exploitation, the global prostitution industry would not be able to flourish and expand.’ In Canada the Department of Justice supported new legislation with plans to use $20 million to assist people who want to leave prostitution, to fund trauma therapy, addiction recovery, employment training, housing, etc. It is now illegal to purchase sexual access to another human being in Canada. This is a great step forward in recognising the harm done by prostitution, showing that what is required is the political will.

The Labour Party could be inspirational in following this path. I hope you and other Labour politicians would, for example, join survivors, organisations and parliamentarians from around the world who attend events such as the International Abolitionist Congress in Paris, organised by CAP International: Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution http://www.cap-international.org. Representatives and MEPs could also support the European Women’s Lobby campaign and the Brussels call: Together for a Europe free of prostitution http://www.womenlobby.org/get-involved/ewl-campaigns-actions/together-for-a-europe-free-from/the-brussels-call-together-for-a/?lang=en The European Women’s Lobby has for years been committed to working towards a Europe free from prostitution, by supporting key abolitionist principles which state that the prostitution of women and girls constitutes a fundamental violation of women’s human rights, a serious form of male violence against women, and a key obstacle to equality between women and men in our societies.

‘The pitcher cries for water to carry/and a person for work that is real.’ These lines from the poem To Be Of Use by feminist writer Marge Piercy come to my mind when prostitution is described as ‘work’. The use of euphemisms like ‘sex work,’ sex industry,’ and ‘client,’ needs to be exposed as signifying the attempt to legitimise prostitution as an acceptable job when, as Dr Finn MacKay has rightly said, it is a ‘shameful blot on humanity.’ I can’t put it better than Rachel Moran, who was prostituted in Ireland from the age of 15 and has written on why the Nordic model ‘is vital to liberate women from sexual abuse and economic exploitation.’  ‘The second class status of women is upheld when the spurious idea that we exist for the use and entertainment of men is promoted at governmental level’… this model is ‘simply the only law on earth that assumes, as a starting point, that prostituted persons are worth more than what the circumstances of their lives have forced them to accept.

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2014/11/why-paying-sex-legal-so-many-countries-because-laws-are-made-men

She goes on to ask ‘why do parliaments reject legislation to criminalise those who pay for sexual access to female bodies? Because of the deep misogyny carved into the male power structures of our world.’ She also points out the significance of language: ‘lobbyists use the deliberately whitewashing language of “sex work”; as though oppression could be morphed into something else by simply assigning it a different name. The truth is prostitution is a brutal system of socially institutionalised and financially compensated sexual abuse, and no amount of repackaging will ever do anything to change that.’

My local newspaper has reported that female university students are taking up offers from an older men’s ‘dating website’ (‘Fees hike forces students to seek ‘sugar daddies'”, Whitstable Times, May, 2012) Could there be a more appalling indictment of the current economic climate and enforced student debt than the horrific fact that young students are taking up the option of transactions in which they are valued not as intelligent human beings but as bodies to be purchased? The paper’s uncritical account of these abhorrent financial dealings provided free advertising for the businessman – pimp – behind the scheme, who remarked gleefully that increased ‘tuition fees have been great for business.’ The transformation of education from a public resource into a privatised commodity has resulted in students themselves becoming commodities for sale. The normalisation of this means some are themselves unaware of the unethical exploitation involved in their own objectification. This is but one of many groups of women whose lack of funding, support, employment, decent pay, housing and safety turns them into convenient prey for profiteering opportunists. As government policies and public spending cuts force women out of work and into increasing poverty and inequality, the clock is turned back on gains made through our struggles. Here is an intersection of factors where you could take a stand and promise to try to make a real difference. It’s hard to see that this could be meaningful, however, if policies condone prostitution by accepting it as an inevitability that can be ameliorated.

In New Zealand legislation around prostitution, including brothel ownership and pimping, means the industry operates under employment and public health laws. This follows from the notion that prostitution is a form of work that should be regulated like others, involving unionisation and legislation, better conditions etc. This entrenches the view of prostitution as just another job. I have been involved in feminism since the Women’s Liberation Movement of the late 1960s and with many other activists I ask: who benefits from this idea gaining credibility? Why is the lobbying by pro-prostitution advocates taking such hold and in whose interest? Feminism is a political movement to end all forms of the exploitation and oppression of women. This cannot be divorced from socialist principles. Our movements have envisaged a transformed world where the oppressive hierarchies of socially-constructed gender roles, institutionalised racism and class are history. This is not conceivable if the abolition of prostitution is not factored in. This should surely be a priority for any party working toward the real equality which can only come from radical political change, as opposed to a liberal notion of equality within an unjust system.

Those lobbying for the prostitution industry argue that abolitionists are puritanical or patronizing. This argument is clearly designed to silence or guilt-trip campaigners and does not stand up to scrutiny. Indigenous activist and critic of the New Zealand model, Dr Pala Molisa, describes how prostitution ‘preys on women already marginalised by class and race’ … ‘Like the war industry, this global multi-million dollar industry feeds off the despair, poverty and hopelessness that the engine of global capitalism is producing – and that afflicts the lives of young people, especially indigenous women and people of colour.’ Demolishing the proposition that prostitution is ‘empowering’, or a matter of choice, he sees that the ‘only distinction between what happens in prostitution, and any other form of non-consensual sex/rape is that the women in prostitution have made a choice to endure the rape in exchange for money … and other kinds of rape victims/survivors have not had to make this choice to purposely put themselves in harm’s way as a means of economic survival.’ http://e-tangata.co.nz/news/breaking-the-silence/issues#

The specious notion that prostitution is simply ‘providing a service’ by selling ‘sex’ also needs challenging. (Punters are not buying ‘sex,’ in fact, they are buying a depersonalized human body, which is ‘theirs’ to use for a period of time.) What is the assumed right to this ‘service’? Behind it lie patriarchal concepts of male sexual access and rights of control, which feminism has always opposed. Is there an unquestionable right for men to have their demands met, further entrenched by the global marketplace? As Jeremy Seabrook writes in Song of the Shirt: Cheap Clothes Across Continents and Centuries, ‘the very term “demand” takes precedence in the seemingly neutral equation of supply and demand; demand is imperious and dominant; supply, submissively responsive.’

But what if we agreed that prostitution is a form of work after all – perhaps the ultimate work under venal, unregulated neo-liberal capitalism, taken to its logical ruthless extreme – callous, contemptuous, brutal in its unfettered greed for profit and exploitation of the world’s resources? In this context perhaps it is just another job, in an economy in which a scarcity of properly-paid employment, destruction of the welfare state, low pay, zero hours contracts, weakened unions, debt and global human trafficking ensure a steady supply stream of bodies for sale. In such a situation lives are rendered precarious and employers have the power and advantage of a labour market where notions of fairness are being shredded. Training for the job starts in childhood with abuse and other forms of the devaluing of girls. Perhaps prostitution is the logical extension of the purchase of labour – albeit not only the time and energy of the worker but their flesh, vagina, breasts, anus, mouth, etc. Suppose this is a form of work? Would that make it OK? Pala Molisa, agreeing with Chris Hedges that ‘prostitution is the quintessential expression of global capitalism’ says this is ‘a culture where workers around the globe are increasingly debased and degraded. Where they become impoverished and powerless. And where they’re thrown away like so much human refuse when they’re no longer of use.’

What then constitutes ‘real work’ – a concept increasingly forgotten, in which there is the satisfaction of doing socially useful, properly remunerated work, in which each person may fulfill their potential and use their gifts? Work in which pride can be taken is a far cry from that offered in today’s world. But it is surely still an ideal we should assert and uphold. You have offered the possibility of alternative, constructive employment being created for those whose jobs will be affected if Britain takes the sane path of not renewing that weapon of mass destruction, Trident; why should this principle not be extended to prostituted people?

As a feminist I come at this issue from concern about women and men being prostituted. But we should be concerned too about what effect the legitimisation of prostitution has on men who can assume the right of sexual access to other people’s bodies. What sort of men do we want to live amongst – our sons, brothers, fathers, neighbours, colleagues? In the better, future society we hope and strive for would they continue to have this right? Will it still be the norm that as punters they are ‘serviced’ by purchasing and using other people in this way? That would make a mockery of upholding the idea of the right to equality and freedom from harm for women and girls. There is an urgent need for education for young people which promotes respectful, non-exploitative relationships, to counter the endemic abuse of girls and women and the attitudes that give rise to sexist violence. Don’t we have a responsibility to champion this now? If you, as Labour Party leader, at a meeting or conference say, promote ideas which legitimise prostitution, you are in effect saying to your male colleagues and audience that it is OK to go out afterwards and buy a woman’s body to use. Can that really be what you believe?

I thank you for the time taken to read this, and hope that a discussion within the Labour Party develops on this crucial issue, changing the minds of those who think prostitution is acceptable and showing that a truly progressive agenda must aim for its abolition.

All best wishes

Yours sincerely

Frankie Green

[We’d like to add links to two more great organisations to those provided in the letter: thanks to Rachel Moran for bringing them to our attention:

Ireland’s Turn Off The Red Light campaign: http://www.turnofftheredlight.ie

SPACE INTERNATIONAL: Survivors of Prostitution-Abuse Calling For Enlightenment: http://spaceintl.org%5D

 

 

Letter to Guardian Review, Freedland and Yehoshua

24th April, 2016

Dear Editor,

Where was Jonathan Freedland [The books interview, Saturday Review, 23rd April], and where was A.B. Yehoshua, when Israeli historian Benny Morris launched The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem in 1989? Yehoshua claims he ‘never heard people speaking about Arabs in a racist way’ until now. Doesn’t ‘ethnic cleansing’ count? In 2004 Morris gave an interview to Ha’aretz in which he extolled the pre-planned policy of slaughter and forcible removal of Palestinians from their homes known as Plan Dalet. Didn’t Yehoshua hear about that? Did he stop his ears when Yitzhak Rabin ordered the Israeli army to ‘break the bones’ of Palestinians? Characterising the 1948 catastrophic dispossession of Palestinians as ‘The War of Independence’ and denying Israel’s brutality by rewriting history doesn’t sound like ‘the unofficial liberal conscience of the nation.’ These antecedents explain the thousands who flocked to a ‘Death to the Arabs’ rally in Tel Aviv this weekend.

The claim that Israel ‘left’ Gaza is equally a travesty when Gaza is constantly under attack and siege, held in a vice-like grip by an Israeli ring of steel from air, sea and land.

Yehoshua’s suggestion that Area C of the occupied West Bank now be annexed is no different from the demands of the settler movement; the idea that the occupation would be reduced by further colonisation is risible.

Diane Langford

No Profit In Prisons – Sina Brown-Davis speaks against the prison industry

Te Wharepora Hou

*Te Wharepora Hou member Sina Brown-Davis speaks at the NO TO SERCO rally at Mt Eden Prison on Saturday 01 August 2015*

Photo courtesy of Jos Wheeler. Photo courtesy of Jos Wheeler.

Tēnā koutou ki ngā iwi kua huihui mai nei. Kei konei ahau ki te taha o te rōpu Te Wharepora Hou. Kei konei ahau me te hunga e whakahē ana ki ngā whareherehere. Ko Sina Brown-Davis ahau nō Ngāti Whātua ki Kaipara.

I am like many gathered here today, the family of a loved one inside. I refused to be ashamed of having a father as a prisoner, even though my dad is incarcerated, I will stand by him and love him unconditionally always. Prisoners are human beings, with human rights, I am sick of the sadistic and vengeful attitude that this country has towards prisoners. I am sick of a racist and punitive system that has resulted in the mass incarceration of Māori…

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Tolpuddle 2015

FOR ATTENTION OF NIGEL COSTLEY

SOUTH WEST TRADE UNION CONGRESS

Dear Mr Costley,

This year’s Tolpuddle Festival was an inspiring, vibrant event that was good for the soul after the recent depressing election results and the vicious attacks on trade unionism, disabled people and those, in and out of work, living in poverty.

I am a veteran trade union activist, Mother of the SOGAT Chapel at The Press Association for 15 years and have been an activist in the Palestine solidarity movement for over four decades. It is brilliant that so many unions, branches and chapels have affiliated to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and have taken up the cause of the occupied Palestinian people. Thousands of trade unionists have recognised that this is the anti-apartheid issue of our time and have responded with solidarity and empathy. They have heeded Nelson Mandela’s statement that no-one can be free without the freedom of the Palestinian people. Many South Africans, including Ronnie Kasrils, have observed that the situation for Palestinians is ‘worse than apartheid.’ The brutal military occupation, the use of weapons of mass destruction against captive civilians with nowhere to run, mass arrests and detentions without trial, abuse of child prisoners, the constant threat of ‘transfer’ based on racial identity, ethnic ‘cleansing’ of swathes of Palestinian land, the abuse and second-class status of Palestinians, including ethnic ‘cleansing’ of Palestinian villages within the State of Israel, the racism endemic in Israeli trade unions…the list is endless.

Please do not be offended if I suggest that the inclusion of a stall promoting the State of Israel was an affront to the memory of the Tolpuddle Martyrs and to the overwhelming number of attendees at the festival who strongly oppose Israel’s genocidal policies and who tirelessly campaign on behalf of the besieged, long-suffering and courageous Palestinian people.

If you examine the Facebook page and website of this pro-Israel group, you will see a link to the extreme right-wing ’think tank’ the Henry Jackson Society, plus many other distasteful, racist and extremist comments.

I had heard there was a ‘reconciliation’ stall at the Festival and I initially approached them in a friendly manner, inquiring if there were any Palestinians involved in their group. I was met with extreme aggression and told ’they are killing us…they are over there’ (pointing to a lone, young man on the PSC stall). Rather than attempt to engage with the stall-holders, I made a complaint to stewards in the marquee. Later, I also registered a complaint at the information tent where I saw many others lining up to do so.

A South African woman who was collecting for Medical Aid for Palestinians outside the Martyrs Marquee on Saturday was harassed by the pro-Israel stall holders and told ‘You are collecting for weapons’ and ‘Palestinians breed too much.’ She also made a complaint to organisers. It was deeply shocking that the stall was allowed to remain for the rest of the day, after this racist abuse had been reported. If people of colour cannot come to Tolpuddle without being insulted in this way, is this not a failure of the anti-racist ethos of the trade movement?

Having examined the pro-Israel Facebook page and seen the triumphalist comments posted there, I conclude that the entire endeavour was staged as a provocation in order to garner publicity. The widespread accusation of anti-semitism as a response to criticism of Israel is a co-ordinated by a well-funded propaganda machine directed by the British Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM) that receives funding from the Israeli Embassy. The Henry Jackson Society is a part of this, along with extremist websites such as Harry’s Room.

I do hope you will not mind if I disagree with your comment that the ‘Israel-Palestine’ issue is perhaps not one that should be discussed at Tolpuddle. The pro-Israel group states in its publicity that it went ‘into the lion’s den’ to counter the role the Palestine Solidarity Campaign has played in raising the issue of the Israeli occupation and apartheid system within the trade union movement. Their aggressive actions over the weekend demonstrated their inability to defend the indefensible by legitimate means. It is deeply worrying that senior organisers within the trade union and Labour movement are unable to distinguish between an extremist, hard-core, zionist group and ’soft’ zionist groups such as Peace Now, who believe in ‘reconciliation,’ albeit in the context of continued occupation. You could have consulted Jews for Justice for Palestinians for a knowledgable, measured evaluation of the group in question.

Palestinian trade unionists have been invited to speak at trade union conferences and desperately need our solidarity and support. It would be entirely appropriate to invite a Palestinian trade unionist to be a keynote speaker at Tolpuddle, rather than try to evade the issue by citing ‘security’ issues.

I sincerely hope that you will take up this suggestion with your colleagues.

In solidarity,

Diane Langford