Friday, February 06, 2009

'Happy' Waitangi Day

I'd lost track of this, a little, until I saw others' blogs (particularly the handmirror's Waitangi Wahine summary). It's odd thinking about Waitangi Day from Australia. 355,000 Kiwis are here and there are a number of Waitangi events, but I'm not involved.

The angst associated with Waitangi Day is frequently commented on. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing. Contrast it with Australia Day celebrations which are increasingly jingoistic, perhaps it's ok that we have mixed feelings about the nation's awkward early years? There's some that think this is bad for us. I understand, but don't agree, their perspective. An uncomplicated celebration would be nice, but can it be possible while many issues remain unresolved? If you feel no responsibility, direct or indirect, then I understand the protests seem like an unecessary distraction.

However, and despite my ancestors arriving towards the end of the Land Wars, I still think of myself as having benefited from what are now understood as unconscionable acts. This too, however, draws a negative response; should we judge the actions of the then colonial powers by today's standards? I've not resolved this for myself, but don't know that I need to in order to justify a process of reconciliation and restitution? I see the latter as being justified by the Treaty of Waitangi.

Where will it end? When will it end? How will we know? Though I understand the limitations of the deficit model for approaching these questions, I still think it's reasonable to set benchmarks about educational attainment, labour market participation, infant mortality, incidence of diabetes, access to housing etc. By these measures alone, we've not honoured the Treaty.

Someone may accuse me of having Pakeha guilt. I don't accept this. I might be a hopeless Liberal, but I remain inspired by the idea New Zealand might become a leading bicultural society (the merits of this, compared with multi-culturalism, I'll leave for another time). And here's the real risk of deficit thinking; what will I lose in a bicultural society should be replaced by what will I gain? Perhaps a great first start is expanding teaching Te Reo Maori as Grant Robertson, and many others, have proposed.

1 comment:

sas said...

The only guilt and cultural cringe I felt was highlighted on Waitangi Day as I witnessed very loud and drunk kiwis on the tube. Just stupid kids probably feeling a bit homesick and not quite sure what to do with all those FEELINGS. Still.

I can recommend Michael King's book Being Pakeha. And yes I agree teaching Te Reo would help all NZers access the culture and embrace bi-culturalism (which NZ is from a constitutional standpoint).

Do you not think that Maori having Maori leaders participating at the governance level will begin to redress this balance?