Brexit: I teeter between the two, landing for the most part on “leave”

By Ellipsister (Ed.)

The proliferation of reckons on Brexit espouse a range of views and angles. Some speak of the collapse of opportunity for future generations, others to a xenophobic tornado tearing through the neighbourhoods of the white working class. Others despair about the stupidity of a particular class of voters, or the youth who did not care enough to vote, while some focus their analyses on the economic damage Brexit could wreak on a global scale. Others romanticise about the liberation of the people from their oppressor, while others bemoan their lost freedom of movement.

Beneath the surface noise there is, however, real opportunity to deconstruct the issues and begin to formulate a deeper understanding about:

  • the conditions that trigger mass action in contemporary societies;
  • social division within mass actions; and
  • the risks, opportunities, implications and consequences that arise through referendum

This post does not cover those points specifically, but simply points out that there are always learning opportunities, no matter what the situation is in which they arise.

Part of the purpose for this special edition  was to see what some of our writers thought about Brexit and to get closer to seeing what we could learn – and perhaps even un-learn from Brexit and its associated campaigns, and to discern how we might ensure that humanity and empathy remain core components of our global social fabric.

Over the past week, I have seen a division here in NZ. A good proportion of Māori supporting the leave campaign, and a good proportion opposing it. Within that matrix, there were racists, there were separatists, and there were genuinely held beliefs about the importance of tino rangatiratanga – no matter who was exercising it.  There were ‘bounded freedom’ champions, freedom of movement advocates, those disgruntled that their newly acquired British passports would no longer be fit for purpose, there were those genuinely concerned about the harm the leave campaign would do to non-white immigrants currently resident in the UK, others concerned about trade and economics.

Where do I sit? I teeter between the two, landing for the most part on “leave”. I intensely abhor the sickening levels of hate and violence that gripped the “leave” campaign. I also convulse somewhat at the mischaracterisations of the EU that attempt to sell a story of a loving Nanny gently caressing her independent nation-states in her ever-loving arms. I refer to these as the neo-TINA’s –  deceptively wedded to the idea that we must concentrate wealth and power.

I support the right of any peoples to self-determination. To determine for themselves what laws or customs they want to govern their country and who will interpret those laws.  My views undoubtedly relate to my commitment to tino rangatiratanga for Māori here in Aotearoa New Zealand. But I need to make this very clear –my support for leave – on principle, is not informed by that hideous campaign of hate and violence. It is tied to my own nostalgia for the rightful return of Māori sovereignty.

I had to ask myself the question: How could I, in principle, support “remain”, when I would 100 percent support an opportunity for Māori to exit from a system that does not serve us well? And no I do not argue for total isolation, or the building of fences, or the expulsion of immigrants, or a return to pre-contact Aotearoa. I argue for the guaranteed right of tino rangatiratanga expressed in Te Tiriti o Waitangi to be formally recognised. To enable Māori the right to choose to exit from the laws that constrain our tikanga and those laws that continue to incarcerate, abuse, and dispossess our people. And as a friend recently said to me, ‘if there is a Union Jack on the flag that symbolises the country I live in, then yes, I do get to have an opinion about Brexit’. That’s not to say you have to like it.

Brexit: Are you Listening

By Nicola Eccleton

In some ways this whole Brexit thing is a bit of a relief really. I had begun to think that those who are not used to having a voice had stopped even trying to use it. The fact that such an important vote was used as a means to reject the establishment rather than determine whether membership of the European Union was useful is a bit of a fly in the ointment, but you can’t win them all.

What bothers me most is the condescension with which people are talking about those who voted leave – writing many off as racists whose vote is somehow less worthy than their own. If that’s what you think, you’re not listening. We all know that anti-immigrant, racist rhetoric thrives in situations where people are disaffected, disillusioned with the system, struggling to raise their kids and pay their rent. We know that the tendency towards looking inwards is a coping mechanism, and that a genuinely outward looking worldview is the purview of those who are lucky enough not to have to fight their own fires on a daily basis.

I read that the single biggest indicator of a leave vote was a low level of education. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to work out that democracy and low education do not function well together. Decision-making 101 requires that people who are asked to make decisions have the information required to do so. The reality that higher education in the West is much easier to attain for those with money allows the wealthy elite to strengthen their claim to being the legitimate holders of decision-making power.

As a student of politics I am fascinated by Brexit’s implications for multilateralism, the Northern Irish border and the Scottish independence movement. As someone who has spent much of their career working with people for whom the current system does not work, I despair that the sum total of the negative outcomes of such a decision will be placed squarely on the shoulders of those UK citizens who can least afford to be negatively affected.

This concentration of power, and ultimately wealth, is currently shaping politics throughout the Western World. Those who are looking to provide an alternative model of politics in the 21st Century need to come up with a version that not only speaks to those who are disaffected by the current system, but genuinely serves them.

The blame lies with those of us who continue to vote for parties and policies that convince us that labour market flexibility is more important than high employment, that education is a private good with solely individual rewards rather than a public good on which our entire system is contingent, and that those who are not well served by this system can ‘choose’ different outcomes. For these are the conditions under which we create space for those that play into the fears and insecurities of the disenfranchised, the Trumps and Farages who reiterate that the system doesn’t work and give people someone to blame.

And if you think that’s not what’s happening here, you’re not listening.

 

We must unlearn division

By Ellipsister (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Rehia, Ngāti Tautahi)

untitled-presentation_block_1I recently watched “Requiem for the American Dream” a documentary with Noam Chomsky comprising a tantalising one and half hours of brain food. In this documentary, Chomsky unpacks what he calls the Ten Principles of Concentration of Wealth and Power. During my screening, I began thinking about those principles in terms of Māori politics. There are so many threads that we could weave together and perhaps if I get the time over the next few months, I will look at each of the principles in the Māori context.

Chomsky’s main premise is that: concentration of wealth yields concentration of power. I draw from his premise and the principles in the picture above that kōtahitanga resides in our willingness and ability as tangata Māori to recognise and resist the colonising practice of division that keeps oppressive structures in power in Aotearoa.

I’m not claiming to have developed some breakthrough proposition. I am restating what we know but with intentionality – to remind us that the vast majority of us actively participate in reinforcing division among ourselves and we need to unlearn this behaviour so that we can drive our struggle forward.

We must come to terms with the fact that kōtahitanga can simultaneously accommodate difference and challenge power. We might not get the results we want immediately or even in our life times, but power fears mass opposition and the time to resist is always now.

Recall the whakapapa of our struggle that culminated in the Māori renaissance of the 1970’s and 1980’s. It reminds us that even the smallest acts of persistent resistance can build into a mass action for change and force power to confront its ugly structure. Kaua e mate wheke mate ururoa!

 

An alternative to the ‘ban’ on foreign homeownership

house-icon-black

By Ellipsister

We are obsessed with home ownership. In an effort to make home ownership a reality for more people living in Aotearoa, our political parties have all proposed what they see as solutions to our housing crisis. From land taxes on foreign investors, to outright bans of foreign home ownership. But is there another option?

Banning foreign home ownership in Aotearoa is a policy option that has been circulated by opposition parties over the past few years as the Auckland housing market has become an unrealistic dream, especially for first-home buyers. It’s been peddled in varying degrees from banning foreign ownership of any land in Aotearoa, to banning foreign homebuyers, to banning foreign ownership of houses by non-resident investors.

I’m not a fan of taking punitive measures to alleviate social issues. And yes, I am arguing that preceding anything with the word ‘ban’ is punitive and that housing – renting or owning is social. Aside from the xenophobic image banning foreign [insert anything here] feeds into, it also ignores the importance that foreign investment has made and continues to make in Aotearoa.

I accept that some people visualise a utopia in which we all live on a self-sufficient plot of land, working as a community, isolated from the trappings of capitalism, and independent of foreign investment. Conversely, some people will visualise a utopia in which people are free to hoard as many resources and as much capital as they desire in partnership with uber wealthy foreign investors. As far as I can tell, neither of those utopias are a reality nor an aspiration for the majority of people in Aotearoa. So rather than a ban of foreign investment in land or homes, I propose a more compassionate option that doesn’t demonise foreign investors or investment – a ‘Letter of Justification’.

I’m imagining a society where people who want to own houses, rather than competing on price – compete on best interests.

My understanding is that when putting in an offer for a house, you can already write a letter to the vendor to support your tender. My question is then why not make this a more prominent part of a sale? Why not introduce a requirement to justify why your bid should be accepted over others?

When buyers are required to justify why they should be entitled to the privilege of taking exclusive possession of a property, we move away from the profit motive, and toward a more equitable and socially just system for property ownership. This would mean that non-resident foreign investors and domestic property speculators would have to make a strong case for why they should be able to own a property over a  homebuyer who intends to live in the home they purchase. The effect being that we reduce the typical financial advantage enjoyed by investors through the increased appeal to equity for the intend-to-live-in-it homebuyer.

How might we design a robust system that supports ‘competing on best interests’? Well, that I haven’t fully explored yet. But we all have a society toward which our actions are directed and I think this is a good place to start.

Preserving the mana of the tino rangatiratanga flag

By Ellipsister

tino-rangatiratanga-flag

Throughout the flag debate, I saw many Pākehā calling for the Tino Rangatiratanga flag to be an option as the national flag. Some said it was a beautiful design – which it is, but that is not a good reason to appropriate it as a national symbol without proper consideration of what this flag symbolises for Māori: resistance and resilience of tangata whenua in our struggle for, you guessed it “tino rangatiratanga. Others claimed that tino rangatiratanga represented them more than the Union Jack. And actually, that sat incredibly uncomfortably with me. I mean, Yes! please do raise our tino flag in solidarity. But your misplaced affection in appropriating our struggle and claiming it represents you is offensive and invalidating. Your lands and resources  were not forcibly taken, your culture and rights were not systematically oppressed, and you do not therefore experience the intergenerational trauma of colonisation.

For me, until tino rangatiratanga is actually achieved by Māori and formally recognised by the State, then I would never put my support behind the tino flag becoming New Zealand’s national flag. The reason should be obvious. However, to avoid any confusion – we cannot have tino rangatiratanga as a symbol of our nationhood if it is not a Māori reality. It is simply a way of feeding into the myth of partnership – the idea that Māori and the Crown have an equal share of power to make decisions that affect the peoples who are of this land – tangata whenua, and those who have settled on it – tau iwi.

I feel that if the tino flag is offered up as a national flag prematurely then it will diminish the mana of the flag and all its symbolism and deprive it of its meaning. On the other hand, if there were a policy for dual recognition of the tino flag as having equal status with the national flag, then this would perhaps enhance the mana of this flag and its symbolism as the forward-looking next step in addressing the issue of Māori sovereignty.

For the record, I didn’t vote in the flag referendum. I was ambivalent – I wasn’t prepared to vote for the dag we were offered, or the symbol of colonisation. That’s just my view. I appreciate others look at the Union Jack differently. But I felt that we should have been having a discussion about dual flags instead. I wrote about my views early on in the debate, asserting my preference for dual flags and my reasons for it. You can read that post here.

I am not offering up any new perspective either. Māori groups have been calling for dual flags and ascribing equal status to the tino rangatiratanga flag since achieving recognition as the national Māori flag in 2009 following a nationwide consultation process. I am simply attempting to advance this kaupapa alongside those who have long been championing this change and in support of those who have also been calling for this since the flag referendum began.

It’s important to note here that some Māori do not recognise the tino flag as the national Māori flag. Instead preferring the United Tribes flag (the first official flag of New Zealand) or their own independent hapū/iwi flag. So we need to discuss as independent hapū/iwi and urban roopu whether we can unite ‘under the korowai of kōtahitanga’ (as Hon. Te Ururoa Flavell calls it) to take our struggle to the next level and place Māori sovereignty at the forefront of this country’s political discourse. Additionally, whether we can agree to do this under this symbol of tino rangatiratanga.

As a sidenote, I am mindful of how our values as Māori are shared and also distinct, adaptable and variable. How we prioritise which values will direct our dialogues are deeply personal. We form them, and they are shaped through what we bring to the discussion as individuals and through our place in our different collectives. In my observation, many of our disagreements fuse around our competing tikanga priorities and the resulting tensions expose what appear to be disagreements about what these values mean, or how we interpret them in a contemporary context.

I imagine it was no easy feat for those who negotiated and lobbied to get the tino flag recognised by the government as an important step in acknowledging the partnership that was intended as forming out of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and credit must be given to those who led that effort. However, the time is ripe for a more ambitious attempt to achieve equal status of our flag, moving from symbolic to constitutional recognition and preserving the mana of this flag as we ramp up our drive for mana motuhake and forge our path to reassert tino rangatiratanga.

 

 

 

 

Reforming Our Whenua

By Ellipsister, Co-Editor

Are the changes to Te Ture Whenua Māori a land grab of seismic proportions, as declared by some commentators? Or a reform that will enable Māori landowners to use their whenua, according to their needs and aspirations, as suggested by the review committee? 

First of all, let’s be clear – discussions on Māori land reform must have Māori at the centre. Conversations cloaked in partisanship or that centre Pākehā voices overlook the Māori context and often fuse our diverse perspectives into one.

In July 2015, I wrote about Te Ture Whenua Māori reforms during the nationwide consultation phase: Part 1: Te Ture Whenua Māori Reforms & Part 2: Te Ture Whenua Māori Reforms. However, since then a number of significant changes have been made to the exposure draft. In brief, those changes include:

  • Option for existing Māori trusts and incorporations to continue as the same entity they are now (i.e. do not need to go through cost of establishing a rangatōpu).
  • Removal of the managing kaiwhakarite provision;
  • Revision of the purpose and principles sections to better reflect the preamble of the existing Act;
  • Option for Whānau to obtain succession to land instead of having to form a whānau trust on intestate succession; and
  • Greater discretion accorded to the Māori Land Court when considering applications to remove the status of Māori freehold land (i.e. transfer from Māori to general).

We won’t know precisely what all the changes are until the Bill is introduced to the House around March 2016. What we can surmise is that the Review Committee has taken into account the concerns of submitters.

One of the arguments I see a lot is that the reforms will enable Māori landowners to transfer their land into general title more easily to sell off. Frankly, if that is how Māori landowners wish to deal with their land, that is their choice – whether we like it or not. However, given only about 4.75% of all the land in this country is dedicated Māori land, the presumption of an impending mass sell-off following the reforms reads more like partisan hyperbole than informed opinion.

Why?

Firstly, the Māori Land Court will retain oversight to ensure any sale or transfer is done in the spirit of Te Tiriti in order to protect and retain Māori land.

Secondly, in my experience, whānau who are considering selling, are often looking at selling their shares to those within the collective or to those with a whakapapa connection to the land block. Often the arguments insist that no Māori should ever sell their land. That is over-simplistic and is as much a constraint on our rangatiratanga over our land as the arguments they are opposing. Additionally, it ignores the reasons whānau may wish to sell their shares in land, for example, to obtain the capital necessary for home ownership. Getting finance to build on Māori land also requires a license to occupy so sometimes it might be in the interest of a whānau to sell their shares in their Māori land, and use the proceeds to build on general land, or to build on another piece of Māori land where they do have a license to occupy.

Thirdly, there is a preferred recipient tender included in the reforms. This means that there is a first right of refusal to Māori with a relevant connection to the land.

And lastly, contrary to what many are suggesting, the thresholds for sale or transfer have not been reduced – they are exactly the same as the thresholds in the existing act, and include the right of landowners to increase that threshold if they wish to do so.

A bugbear of mine is when commentators are vague and use language like:

The reality however is that the land will simply be opened up to those wishing to exploit the new lax regulations…All these changes will do is make it easier to sell that Maori land, not grow it

Here, the commentator avoids centering Māori as the affected party, pushing an agenda that does not serve Māori interests in land, but rather asserts his own interest in his own ideology. In the process, painting the landowners he speaks of wanting to protect as the greedy grubby little neo-liberals that he rejects. Remember, it is Māori land, meaning only Māori can decide how they will use it. If selling is their preferred option, then that is ultimately the decision of the Māori landowner subject to the prescribed process.

Another criticism made centres around the lack of funding available to assist Māori to develop our land. This is misinformed as there are a number of funding streams available to help Māori landowners collectively and individually including Māori homeowners on general land, to address their needs. For a detailed breakdown see the Māori Housing Network Investment Strategy and KiwiBank’s Kāinga Whenua loans scheme.

In Vote Māori 2015 the Government announced:

  • a total of over $7 million to improve housing outcomes for Māori by providing practical assistance to whānau and Māori housing projects
  • a total of $7 million for Māori Housing development
  • a total of over $3 million to assist Māori land owners improve the productivity of their land

The Minister of Māori Development explained that this means there is $8.8 million per annum for Māori housing in addition to the existing funding of around $7.5 million per annum, bringing the total amount to $16.2 million per annum in 2018-19. He also announced a new fund of $12.8 million over 4 years to help Māori landowners improve the utilisation of their land and a further $3.2 million per annum to support targeted initiatives in areas where land is significantly underutilised.

I am not suggesting that these measures are a full solution to meeting Māori housing and land use needs and aspirations. Nor am I suggesting that the reforms are immune from criticism. I just think they provide an avenue for Māori to achieve rangatiratanga over our land. Our identities as Māori are linked to our whenua, and as current or prospective Māori landowners it is our voices and our perspectives that matter in these reforms. The proposed Māori land reforms are practical measures not ideological ones. There are multiple issues to consider and many whānau in many different situations so it is vitally important that we are properly informed about what is proposed and what those changes will mean for us and for our land.

TRIGGER WARNINGS AREN’T INTENDED FOR EDUCATED SNOWFLAKES & CONSERVATIVE BIGOTS

TW: This post includes a link to Sonny Bill Williams’ tweet that includes graphic images of two dead children.

By Ellipsister, Co-Editor

Should graphic images posted on social media be accompanied by a trigger warning? Are trigger warnings being overused by educated snowflakes and conservative bigots to avoid their views being challenged? This post briefly explores the importance of trigger warnings to ensure trauma survivors are not involuntarily exposed to triggering material.

Sonny Bill Williams (SBW) tweeted two pictures of dead children to over 554k followers on Twitter. His tweet was retweeted 1,333 times and liked by 1,550 accounts.[1] His post elicited mixed responses. As far as I can see most of it was positive. The odd few criticised his lack of a TW (trigger warning), while others claimed his tweet disrespected the dead, and others just couldn’t stomach the graphic nature of the content.

While the conversation has been taking place in Universities and various circles around the world, the concept of TW’s is still relatively unknown in Aotearoa, unless you’re an avid reader of feminist forums, blogs, articles etc.

Trigger warnings  were originally designed for the benefit of people with post-traumatic stress disorder. They involve a written or verbal statement warning that an article or discussion might contain triggering material for trauma survivors. Kate Manne, NY Times writes:

The idea was to flag content that depicted or discussed common causes of trauma, like military combat, child abuse, incest and sexual violence. People could then choose whether or not to engage with this material.

TW’s are about enabling people to voluntarily expose themselves to content that might evoke a strong psychological response, rather than having it imposed on them without being able to prepare themselves and thereby leading to a triggering event.

A useful analogy for TW’s was offered by Evalith on Fuck Yeah, Trigger Warnings in which she explains that being triggered is like having an allergic reaction.

The analogy in brief is that both triggering and allergies are involuntary reactions to particular stimuli both varying in degrees from minor to severe. While an allergy is physical, triggering is psychological. And just as food labels provide allergy warnings, so too should content that we know could potentially trigger an involuntary psychological response grounded in past trauma.

The SBW tweet has highlighted that some people view TW’s as censorship. This is kind of true, but it’s not of suppression lineage. It is soft-censoring that enables trauma survivors the choice to decide if they will voluntarily expose themselves to potentially triggering content. TW discourse is not without its critics but I cannot see how having a well functioning empathy barometer is squawked at as coddling of the mind.

The question then is should SBW have used a TW with his tweet? The short answer in my view is yes. But including a TW is dependent on a couple of things:

  • the person knowing that TW’s are a thing; and
  • understanding what they are and why they’re important.

The learning for us all is in future then is to perhaps think about our content and note that it doesn’t take too many characters to say TW: dead children (adjusted accordingly). If you’re unsure, here’s a list of common examples on when to use TW’s. It’s also useful for Twitter users who don’t want to automatically see image previews, to disable this feature.

Responsibility for content is not one-sided given the nature of the platforms we choose to use. But a simple TW can potentially save a person from reliving their trauma – whatever it may be.

Mike McRoberts offered a relevant perspective regarding SBW’s tweet too in that it was intended to make us all uncomfortable. While there is certainly truth in that for the majority of us who have not experienced living in a war zone, or under violent oppressive rule, and who don’t put to much thought into overseas conflicts, it does overlooks the very real experiences of trauma survivors. Discomfort and triggers are not synonymous.

For the record, I don’t think we should be hammering SBW hard for not including a TW. However, I do agree that as an internationally renowned sports star, and a UNICEF Ambassador that SBW has a responsibility to recognise that some of his followers may be Syrian refugees, or trauma survivors who have had similar experiences and that those pictures might trigger a severe emotional response in them, whether he intended that or not.

We need to be clear though: TW’s should never become the default for over-educated progressive snowflakes or impossibly conservative bigots who just want to avoid exposure to material that challenges their prevailing views. TW’s serve a specific purpose the co-option and degradation of which would be incredibly harmful for freedom of thought and expression. Like I said above – responsibility for content is not one sided but a TW is not too big of an ask especially when it is of no consequence to those of us unaffected, but of huge benefit to trauma survivors.

 

[1] Last checked 30 December 2015, at 14:37.