Don Brash and his fellow Hard Righters just don’t get it and apparently are determined never to. The Treaty of Waitangi isn’t about race, it’s about an agreement between two societies to coexist and share the land of Aotearoa New Zealand.
It is quite explicit in Article 2 of either of the original documents. As has been stated on numerous occasions by the Courts and the Tribunal, the principle underlying the pact was that both societies should be given a fair suck of the sav when it comes to fulfilling their aspirations.
This is not assimilation or a treaty that validates some kind of conquering by a colonial power. Our Donald seeks to trump New Zealand’s ethnic diversity and special status for Maori society with a whitewash. His doctrine holds that to be a New Zealander means to be indistinguishable from the caricature he and his fellow WASPs fit; it’s a pathetic and upsetting nonsense.
Brash is correct only insofar as we are all New Zealanders. Thereafter, because of his entrenched refusal to accept Article 2 of the Treaty, to even know what the Treaty principles are let alone acknowledge them, simply broadcasts that he denies our heritage as New Zealanders.
If one understands and accepts this history as most schoolchildren do these days, then one can only conclude his claims are thinly disguised but unbridled racism, no matter how charming his presentation of that bigotry. In that context Don Brash is the local embodiment of the conservative Religious Right that has driven the Republican Party in the US so far into the abyss.
It’s difficult to fathom why someone who had a distinguished career as a public policy technocrat could be so blind to the reality of the Treaty, so in denial that it was not a document of surrender to the values of some conquering power (the population imbalance at the time it was signed was some 40 to one so one could argue the accord saved many of the unruly British settlers at the time from a fate no better than death at the hands of upset Maori). Rather it was an agreement that both societies had the right to flourish and fulfil their aspirations – to mutually occupy this land. The British were, in other words, invited in.
Despite Donald’s denial, there is no doubt that Maoridom has special rights that no other New Zealand group does – that is precisely what Article 2 covers – rangatiratanga and property rights over natural resources and cultural treasures. Article 3 confers equal political rights to all individual New Zealanders, while Article 1 acknowledges the role of Government - whether sovereignty was ceded in 1840 or later by other means remains a matter of debate (and no doubt will be eventually determined by the Tribunal or the Courts).
Brash accepts Articles 1 and 3 possibly but refuses to accept 2 which is the acknowledgement of Maori society, and he’s completely against the principles that successive governments have acknowledged and are reflected in legislation.
The Treaty makes New Zealand unique – it is not the same as any other society whose history includes intrusion by a colonial power. The 2007 UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, further confirms the treaty principles by reiterating the rights of indigenous peoples in those societies (whether they had a treaty or not) as being different than those of subsequent settlers. Not more, but different. In essence that declaration endorses the rights of a traditional society to exist and thrive fulfilling its aspirations, subject only to the individual rights of other citizens.
And this is what so puzzling about the Brash doctrine. It seems to be rooted in a belief that what benefits Maoridom must by definition harm others. He makes no acknowledgement that a thriving Maori society, fulfilling its own aspirations, is actually positive for all New Zealanders.
Indeed he argues that’s what he wants as long as those aspirations align with those from his own Baptist-based heritage. It’s self-centred, it demonstrates a total absence of EQ on the part of our Donald, and it is about as arrogant as one can be when it comes to acknowledging the rights of Maoridom as tangata whenua, as the treaty specifically does.
The alternative, a disillusioned Maoridom, with inter-generational entrapment in poverty, poor socio-economic indicators, and an intergenerational message that they are a conquered people does nobody any good. New Zealand woke up to this in 1975, Brash remains in denial.
Maoridom is entitled to having its rights under the treaty protected. Brash calls that race-based privilege. On this issue – because he is intelligent enough to know that Article 2 acknowledges the rights of Maoridom as a society, he can only be regarded as a sick puppy, and his fellow travellers either ignorant of the treaty or equally racist as the charming Doctor.
It is encouraging that the major political parties have reacted negatively to this latest Brash reincarnation. It looks as though his only chance politically with his race-based approach to re-writing New Zealand’s constitutional history, is to hitch his wagon to NZ First, which ironically has the same shallow appreciation of the difference between a treaty and a document of surrender.