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In bed with bigotry

Written By: - Date published: 10:00 am, July 30th, 2009 - 33 comments
Categories: act, maori party, racism - Tags:

Maori Party MP Rahui Katene’s Matariki Public Holiday Bill was before the House last night (I understand National is planning to vote it down when it comes to the vote in three weeks). Anyway, as a precursor, Katene asked a question on the Government’s attitude to Maori holidays during Question Time.

Chris Finlayson answered with nice platitudes. All very pro forma. Then David Garrett thought he would ask a supplementary:

David Garrett: Is the Minister aware that Dr Paul Moon, a professor of history at the Auckland University of Technology and a well-known expert in pre-European history, is of the view that many of the claims about the festival of Matariki are tenuous at best, and that with regard to it supposedly being linked to planting times Māori had much better natural science to rely on and ‘did not need a three-month advance warning of when to prepare for kumara sowing.’?

The House was pretty stunned. There was a chorus of outrage from Labour at the racism that lies behind this kind of claim that seeks to invalidate Maori history and culture. Finlayson managed a meek “No, I am not aware of that”.

What I found interesting was that the Maori Party MPs just sat there. One would have expected them to have been leaping to their feet to rebut this slander against their culture but no.

I found myself wondering what could be worth sharing government with such bigotry.

Then I remembered: the power.

33 comments on “In bed with bigotry”

  1. So Bored 1

    The comment probably went well over Turianas head, her mind is like a vacuum in the immensity of outer space.

  2. I might be missing something there – could someone explain to me what was racist about the question?

    • snoozer 2.1

      Like the whole ‘Celts first’ myth, attacks on Matariki are intended to undermine the legitimacy of Maori culture and, thereby, the ability for Maori to have their traditions and culture recognised on par with Pakeha culture.

      It also presupposes that Maori are either so stupid that they don’t know their own history or liars just making stuff up to get some advantage.

  3. Ianmac 3

    The title “Bigotry” caught my eye and at the risk of thread jacking, I noticed a great column from Garth George. I was stunned to find him writing to day in a reasonable balanced way re Dame Sian’s speech???!!! Perhaps the best summary that I have read on the subject.
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10587436

  4. Chris G 4

    When will this Garret plonker leave? Has there ever been a bigger fuck-up in government?

  5. I dont get this post, does a MP want to introduce another public holiday? If so, Cool!

    • snoozer 5.1

      Yeah that’s the purpose of the Bill. But National and ACT are going to vote against it.

  6. Tim Ellis 6

    I wonder if Labour MPs think the same when Clayton Cosgrove talks about Maori prisons, or when Mr Cunliffe mocked Pansy Wong’s accent in Parliament.

  7. Draco T Bastard 7

    I assume that Garrett was speaking of this. Dr Moon is questioning some of the reasons put forward for Matariki but otherwise seems supportive of it becoming a national holiday.

    This seems to be the governments interpretation of it. Quite interesting the similarity between some Maori legends and Greek mythology.

    I still have NFI what Garrett was trying to achieve though.

    • snoozer 7.1

      He was trying to undermine the legitimacy of Maori asserting their cultural heritage in our Pakeha dominated system

  8. Nick 8

    Thomas Beagle hits it on the head. The only bigotry here is displayed by the writer’s attempt at importing some.

    I’m with Draco too, a waste of a question.

  9. David Garrett wants to be the new Ross Meurant. That, with the addition of the staffer he made the comment about, are probably who he thinks about when he is alone.

  10. no leftie 10

    I was almost confused by this post…is this an attack on David Garrett?

    Then the clarification….

    “I found myself wondering what could be worth sharing government with such bigotry.

    Then I remembered: the power”

    I’m guessing that “haters and wreckers” and “last cab off the rank” sentiment is still ringing in the ears of the Maori Party. And getting to be part of the Government too and not just ignored.

    By all means keep up these attacks, nothing builds relationships faster than abuse.

  11. Luke H 11

    I don’t understand this post. Taken purely by the meaning of the words, Garrett was giving Maori more credence for their knowledge of astronomy and the cycles of the seasons than the other politicians were.

    In essence, he was being the opposite of racist.

    Anyone care to explain, or is this doublethink something that I can only grasp by being a card-carrying Labour member?

    • snoozer 11.1

      He’s saying that Maori must have it wrong, that Matariki must be fake. That either makes Maori stupid or liars.

      • Luke H 11.1.1

        He isn’t saying anybody is stupid or a liar.

        He’s questioning the PC version of Matariki as a celebration, or a signal to plant kumara.

        That isn’t invalidating Maori history, it’s simply comparing the stated ideas with reality.

        • felix 11.1.1.1

          Serious question:

          Do you view Maori culture as an abstract concept which can be best understood by academic study?

          Please note, I’m not calling you any names, just trying to get a feel for your level of engagement with Maori culture.

          • Luke H 11.1.1.1.1

            I don’t claim any significant level of ‘engagement’ (whatever that means) with Maori culture. Culture is not an ‘abstract concept’; culture is something that people create by living together in a certain way; I’m just not part of that section of New Zealand society.

            In a similar way, I don’t think adding an official Matariki holiday will do anything for Maori culture (my thoughts are detailed here), and in fact I think the holiday proposal speaks volumes about the lack of imagination of leftist intellectuals: any perceived problem can only be solved by an Act of Parliament, endless consultation, and taxpayer money.

            In any case, ‘culture’ is not the question here; the question is whether or not (some) Maori used Matariki as a signal to start planting kumara. The answer is based in facts from history, not opinions or viewpoints.

            A question in response: are you saying that Maori history is opaque to study by non-Maori, academic or no?

            • Draco T Bastard 11.1.1.1.1.1

              In a similar way, I don’t think adding an official Matariki holiday will do anything for Maori culture

              Maybe, maybe not – but it will do something for NZ culture of which we are sadly lacking.

            • felix 11.1.1.1.1.2

              are you saying that Maori history is opaque to study by non-Maori, academic or no?

              Not at all.

              However “history” doesn’t equal “culture” as you note yourself.

              Why pose the question (as Garret has) of Matariki being recognised as a holiday as being a question of a historical nature, rather than one of culture?

      • jagilby 11.1.2

        Calling them stupid and liars? In much the same way Galileo was “calling” the Catholic Church “stupid and liars” by proposing the world was not flat.

        I can’t see where racism comes into it when he is saying that their interpretation of history may not be correct and in fact they were smarter than they give themselves credit for. Should that not be taken as a compliment?

        It’s good to clarify history but I think there could be merit in making Matariki a holiday and quite liked DPF’s recommendation earlier today (i.e. scrap Queen’s birrthday and labour day – have Matariki and NZ day).

        • felix 11.1.2.1

          The racism is in his implication that Maori culture is a historical phenomenon rather than an everyday experience.

  12. Yes Garrett is an oafish and bigoted old man and he said what he did to undermine Maori in his own way; but when you say that the question –
    “seeks to invalidate Maori history and culture.”
    you are making your own assumptions. I have made the same sorts of observations as Dr Moon apparently (I haven’t read it yet) and I have been conducting some amount of research over the last few years on this subject, so I took Garrett’s question to be a challenge to the Maori Party over whether they have got the tikanga right. I think it is valid for a Pakeha to ask that question in regards the Bill – even if he is an incarnation of Alf Garnet.

    All these issues should be debated in the select committee, so Garrett’s comments about the contested nature of the day indicates further investigation doesn’t it? It should be used to get him and his party to vote for it. That’s the only way it will pass with National being so mean-spirited. Let’s have that discussion in the select committee – he should be called on it.

  13. mike 13

    Well like many of the items in the reconstrcted history we have, Matariki is just a modern idea that sounds good to a few.

    Having a holday around it sounds great though – although those who think it will make any difference to maori self esteem are badly mistaken.

  14. BLiP 14

    David Garret – the Alf Garnett of New Zealand politics. The next thing you know, he’ll be telling us Jesus was English

  15. Ron 15

    Dopey Garrett and semantic arguments aside – what is wrong with creating a hybrid festival that fits our current thinking and culture.
    Matariki definitely has a cultural basis and Dr Moon probably knows what he’s talking about. But a modern Matariki is going to be by definition…modern….so won’t match the way Maori originally celebrated it, used the time or thought about it.

    The same can be said for Xmas and Easter. Modern(ish) festivals created by the societies that were around at the time.

    It’s a shame the Tories voted against a Matariki Holiday. it would have been unique in the world and a real reflection of modern New Zealand culture.

  16. Ron 16

    Dopey Garrett and semantic arguments aside – what is wrong with creating a hybrid festival that fits our current thinking and culture.
    Matariki definitely has a cultural basis and Dr Moon probably knows what he’s talking about. But a modern Matariki is going to be by definition…modern. So won’t match the way Maori originally celebrated it, used the time or thought about it.

    The same can be said for Xmas and Easter. Modern(ish) festivals created by the societies that were around at the time.

    It’s a shame the Tories voted against a Matariki Holiday. it would have been unique in the world and a real reflection of modern New Zealand culture.

    • Philonz 16.1

      I agree. Easter was a pagan festival twisted to suit Christianity and more recently to suit…. well chocolate I guess. It would be nice to have a holiday that is a celebration of contemporary bi/multi-cultural NZ. The historical stuff is quite fascinating though.

  17. Rex Widerstrom 17

    Is Mr Garrett aware that many hundreds of thousands of people, many of them highly respected academics, are of the view that many of the claims about the festival of Christmas / Easter / Hannukah / Ramadan / Ganesha Chaturthi / Yom Kippur / Birth of the Bab / Eid-al-Fitr / Deepavali / The Feast of Trumpets are tenuous at best, and that with regard to it supposedly being linked to multi-armed elephant Gods, some old bloke called Moses, another bloke with a long white beard floating round on a cloud and various other mythic figures, humankind now has much better natural science to rely on?

    Still, it’s clearly a cunning precursor to wiping all the present holidays off the calendar and reverting to the kind of celebrations that were had in Roman times. I can’t wait for my first day off to celebrate the Stoning of the Prisoners.

    • Ianmac 17.1

      How about “The Stoning of the MP’S Festival”? (To be carried out in a large glasshouse) 🙂

  18. Mac1 18

    Rex, I think that particular holiday is practised in various gaols around the world already.

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