Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The State of the Nation -

I have not been writing all that much in recent times, for a number of reasons connected mainly with work (and staying employed) along with several other events in my personal life that will not be discussed in any forum.

But there are two events that do inspire some comment, and they are connected; in many ways including that they impinge in a small way on my personal past.

The first of these (in temporal terms) actually passed me by until I went looking for the second in order to re-read it and to précis at least in my mind. So, with your (the reader’s) consent I shall start with the article in Friday’s Herald concerning a group calling themselves the BroFiles, and what is being described as “institutionalized racism” in the Far North.
When Rapine Robert (Rob) Murray went to his doctor with heart problems, the doctor drew a sign on Murray's ample belly and wrote: "Nil by mouth".
To the South African-born doctor in Kaitaia, it was a light-hearted way of telling Murray to get serious about reducing his then 224kg bulk.
But he didn't know his patient. Murray, 45, is a partner in a company with 20,000 beehives, exporting manuka honey around the world for medicinal use.

At its very best, unthinking perhaps. But I am not going to make excuses for either side.
Around the same time, school maths adviser Makoare (Mak) Parangi, 51, started a new job as principal of Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Rangiawhia, a small Maori-language primary school on the Karikari Peninsula where many children had switched off education.
"When I started, the absenteeism was really high. I was lucky to get one student with 70 per cent attendance," he says.
"They didn't think they could do it."
His friend, Rocky Manga, 53, a former Telecom technician, says many Maori kids can't understand the relevance of a subject like algebra.
"Our parents do labouring jobs. We don't have to smarten up to do that, do we?" is the thinking.
Pakeha teachers respond by "putting them all in the same boat".
"No one's listening, so they just show off," says Manga. "They shut down."
These grassroots experiences, repeated from Kaitaia to Bluff, have national consequences. Last year 45 per cent of the babies born in this country were Maori or Pacific. [I have reported that directly; I am still trying to determine the relevance of that last sentence.]

Now that differs slightly from my personal experience. I am in no position to argue that to be invalid; my experience is not as wide nor as direct as the report. The impact of the difference on the overall consequence though is minimal to nil.
The point behind this is the reflection of the “pakeha teachers”; Maori are a bunch of no-hopers, the dead-weight of the country, the culture of unemployment and dependency, fit only to be the curios of global peeping toms and tomettes.
Significantly, Te Puni Kokiri researcher Paul Hamer found signs of much less "waste" when he surveyed the one in every six Maori who now live in Australia.
"People move there because they feel that by doing so they can step outside those limiting expectations that Pakeha have of them and the limiting expectations they have of themselves because of that environment," he says.
"Some said that when they lived in New Zealand, their whanau accused them of being 'white' or 'Pakeha' if they sought to enlighten themselves or enrich their lives in any way," he wrote in his 2007 report.
A woman in Perth told him: "It's not a crime anymore to try and be financially comfortable or to have stability or be intelligent."

And this is the point with which I most heartily concur. Of those with whom I went to college with in the final three years nearly half – 8 out of 18 - were Maori. Of those 8, at least three hold higher qualifications than I, two are reportedly teaching at university. The failure is not the consequence of inate inability, there are far more important forces at work.
Tariana Turia, the Maori Party co-leader who is associate minister responsible for both Maori health and Maori/Pacific employment, believes Maori are held back in their homeland by "institutional racism".
She points to research showing, for example, that Maori suffer higher rates of heart disease than Pakeha, yet doctors request lipid and glucose blood tests at lower rates for Maori than for non-Maori in the at-risk age group from 35 to 64.
In the Ministry of Health's 2002-03 NZ Health Survey, Maori were three times as likely as Europeans to say they had been treated unfairly in the health system because of their ethnicity, and 13 times as likely to say they had been treated unfairly in the housing market.

At that point Turia and others involved, wander off into a reverie of “Poor people needing everyone’s help and support” that does no good at all.
More importantly, relate the findings of the 2002-3 report with the comments of Rapine Murray earlier. Equally as importantly, relate those findings to the earning capacity of Maori, and the earlier comments from Makoare Parangi on the problems of teaching in what is a largely disadvantaged community. If any person’s education standards, and qualifications, are at the bottom end of the scale then (unless they live in the US of course) their ability to earn, and consequently to afford to buy a house will be extremely limited.
As direct argument against Turia (and I say here that I have always had respect for her) the experiences, and successes outlined in the article are compelling.
Even when dealing with children, [ Dr Lance] O'Sullivan and Parangi place themselves on the same level as their clients instead of treating them like children who have to be told what to do.
There are similar examples elsewhere. Almost 20 years ago, Professor Walker helped initiate a "tuakana" ("older sibling") programme using Maori, and later Pacific, university students to mentor others at Auckland University and at selected South Auckland colleges. The programme has halved the Maori/Pacific failure rates at some schools.

At Auckland University, Walker's co-director of Nga Pae o te Maramatanga, Dr Tracey McIntosh, says she has always advocated opening up the Tuakana programme to all ethnicities.
"When we do get successes, we have a responsibility to ensure that everyone who could benefit from these programmes should have access to them," she says.
Dr Evan Poata-Smith, a social scientist at AUT University, says any strategy of "closing the gaps" also has to go beyond healthcare and education.
"Can you feel good at school if you have to go home to the same environment where you are waiting for the landlord to evict you?" he asks.

If we hold Poata-Smith’s comment against the mirror of the “woman from Perth” then the very best place to start would be within the Maori culture.
The power, and conservatism, of that culture is illustrated by the second (earlier, remember?) article covering the release of Part One of the Waitangi Tribunal into the claims of Ngati Tuhoe. I confess that I missed this when it was published a week ago. I will have to download and read the 500 pages of the document myself to truly judge the accuracy of the report in the Herald; which report makes much of the history of the relationship between Tuhoe and the government.
To find out where the anger stems from, people could read the newly released first part of the Waitangi Tribunal's report into the troubled history of Tuhoe and the Crown.
The report, though incomplete, finds largely in favour of Tuhoe. People can learn about sweeping land confiscations and military actions which have, in the words of Tribunal judge Patrick Savage, "echoed down through generations and explains the anguish and anger evident to this very day".
The first substantial contact the geographically remote Tuhoe had with the English was when without warning the Crown seized much of their fertile land in 1866 as part of the confiscation of a large tract of Maori land in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.
There were devastating social, economic and cultural impacts, says the Tribunal.
The land was taken to punish not Tuhoe specifically but Maori involved in attacks in the region, including the killing of missionary Carl Volkner and government agent James Fulloon.
The Tribunal, though, makes clear Tuhoe were not responsible: "The time has come to lay this myth to rest. Tuhoe were not involved in the killings of either Volkner or Fulloon."
Their land was taken anyway because they were swept up in the hostilities of others.

So, until I get the chance to read Part 1, take a breather and go back read my several items written on the Urewera raids at Ruatoki. The trials of those arrested are due in the next few weeks and that will add considerable weight to the historical analysis of the Waitangi Tribunal.


Eugene Tan said...

Another explanation could be purposeful autodiscrimination. It's like a beggar family has smart children but because the parents are not sure if their children can ultimately succeed, they maim the kids' legs (for example) so they too eventually become beggars.

It's an odd thought, hard to put in words.

The probligo said...

It is a very difficult thing to discuss without seeming to be an apologist for the status quo.

So, when I think of some that I went to school with I have difficulty reconciling the ideas in the article with actual experience.

That difficulty comes from the fact that I would be (am) proud of my children doing better than my personal achievements. Hopefully, my children have some satisfaction from what they have achieved.

At that point I come to your suggestion, and I twist it just a little bit around...

"It's like a beggar family has smart children but because of the respect that the children have for their parents, they maim their own legs (for example) so they too eventually become beggars."

Now, is that a valid restatement? Only partially, perhaps. I say that because it is not a situation, a process, that can be generalised. There are the kids who fail at school because the bus goes past the gate at 7.30 a.m. while the milking is still on and they are working in the shed. There are the kids who just can not give a stuff about school and the discipline required for learning. There are the kids who do not have the ability or talent to learn (no matter how much they strive).

Complex and puzzling...