Thursday, July 29, 2004

All New Zealanders

It's good to see the government finally talking some sense on race issues:
Paranoia politics and playing on prejudice will not advance New Zealand one iota. Nor will race-based politics and race-based policy-delivery. Services must be on the basis of need and not because of a sense of race-based entitlement.

New Zealand also has to get its British imperial past behind it. Maori and Pakeha are both indigenous people to New Zealand now. (Emphasis added)

I couldn't agree more. Of course, the opposition is quick to point out that this 'one law for all' thing is precisely what they had been suggesting all along. Still, better late than never, I suppose.

An important step to overcoming our "British imperial past" would be to replace our tired old flag and national anthem. After all, the Union Jack is a pretty clear symbol of our colonial past. Better to replace it with something which reflects our identity today - a Maori design, perhaps. This flag looks rather good:

As for our national anthem: the lyrics suck, the melody is plodding and dreary, and it was written by an Australian. Also, as we're such a secular country, it seems a bit inappropriate that our anthem is so religious. I'm not sure what to replace it with (just about anything would be an improvement though) - perhaps Pokarekare ana. Apparently overseas NZers associate this song, more than any other, with home. Given that it has already entrenched itself in our national consciousness, why not make it our anthem? It would be a nice cultural gesture, and it's a pleasant-sounding song besides.

Back to Mallard's speech:
There are no people on earth who would of their own free will agree to extinguish themselves as an ethnically distinct group and totally surrender control over their communities and culture to others.

That cannot be what New Zealand’s 21st century is about. New Zealanders know that our unity as a nation can only be achieved by respecting and admitting diversity and difference.

That sentiment sounds admirable, but I'm a little wary of the meaning hidden behind all the warm-fuzzy rhetoric. He goes on to say that "[c]ohesion doesn’t mean assimilation of every single one of us into one mould of the identikit New Zealander". Assimilation certainly has a bad name these days, but that doesn't necessarily mean that we should be encouraging separatism in the name of "diversity" either. I'm not sure whether that's what Labour is doing here, but it's worth watching out for.

I think that separatism is the real concern New Zealanders have about race relations in our country. That's why Brash's Orewa speech and 'one law for all' policies were so popular. It's good that Labour has taken note of this, and agreed to avoid "race-based policy delivery". Still, there is more to be done. Talk of 'diversity' must be careful not to exclude the mainstream.

To be clear: I don't want a New Zealand which pretends to be exclusively British, and tramples all other cultures underfoot. But nor do I want to live in a separatist "bicultural" New Zealand where obsessions with "diversity" (and cultural 'purity') lead to exclusivity and cultural segregation. Instead, I would like New Zealand to develop its own distinct, unified culture, to which all citizens (regardless of their ethnic backgrounds) can belong. That is, I think integration - not assimilation or multiculturalism - should be the goal.

Fortunately, such integration is probably inevitable anyway. It's a natural - almost organic - development. Pakeha and Maori culture are continually influencing each other, and growing together in the process. I look forward to the day when there is no longer any distinction to be made between the two.

Removing race-based policies is a step towards unification. Incorporating Maori culture into our national symbols (i.e. flag and anthem) is perhaps the next big step. Doing so could serve to not only recognize Maori, but also reassure ordinary New Zealanders that Maori culture is not exclusive. It would no longer be 'us vs them'. It would just be 'we'.

1 comment:

  1. The problem is that culture (a sort of "high culture") is usually defined by some sort of "guardians of the culture" these people want to define a culture whether it exists or not and differentiate it - effectively working against the intergration aim.
    labour probably doesnt want to fight these people (which creates divisions in itself) and yet doesnt really want them to win. When merging seems inevitable there is no problem but when seperation is a growing force (ie these guardians of culture are very influential) one may have to actually oppose them - not somthing you want to have to do. 

    Posted by geniusnz


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