I did a bit of a tweetstorm earlier today, inspired by seeing friends embroiled in frustrating conversations like this one and the decided slant of articles like this about the proposed Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary.
My thoughts resonated with a bunch of people, so here they are in post form, but I’m going to stick up at the front something which I tweeted late in the piece: I’m just a Pākehā woman with a Twitter account and a reflexive critical analysis of political discourse. I’m not an expert in this area. I refer you to far wiser people like Morgan Godfery and the reportage of folk like Maiki Sherman at Newshub.
So. This week has been a revelation in the racist imperialism of mainstream (white) environmental organisations.
We’re not even arguing about meaningful consultation around establishing the Kermadec sanctuary, we’re talking about ZERO consultation by white politicians who assumed they knew best. National are literally in coalition with the Māori Party but didn’t even pick up the phone to give them a heads-up, probably because like every other Pākehā handwringer they just assumed they knew best about whether there’d be an issue.
That’s problem 1: Pākehā assuming they know everything about a complex historical/legal issue which gets really shallow coverage in the media and frequently is only lightly discussed in school, if ever.
Problem 2 is the (very Pākehā) environment lobby’s outrage that anyone might stand in the way of an ocean sanctuary. “Think of the planet!” they cry, which is appallingly arrogant coming from the ethnic group which has done the vast majority of screwing up the planet to start with.
But no, now we know better so let’s do things our way, it’s for the greater good after all!
This also brings in the horrible racist undertones of the Pākehā worldview being more ~sophisticated~ than Māori.
We have to take a hard look at how environmental organisations and Pākehā liberalism exploit indigenous culture. When it suits us, we happily draw on the notion of indigenous people being ~more in touch with the land~ and having a ~spiritual connection to nature~ and painting with all the goddamned colours of the wind. When it helps our agenda, we happily retweet the hashtags opposing oil pipelines and trumpet the importance of honouring the Treaty.
But scratch the surface and all the smug superiority is there. We know better; our thinking is more advanced because we care about ~the whole planet~.
It’s very easy to care about the whole planet when you’re on the team who took it by force.
The third problem I came to is broader than the current debate: it’s the hate-on Pākehā have for the idea that Māori dare to operate in a capitalist framework. Like, we came here, smashed their culture, took their land, tried to destroy their language, imposed capitalism on them, and when we offer a pittance in compensation for what they have lost, we get OUTRAGED when they set up “modern” business structures with it.
Do people have justified concerns about the decisions and operating practices of some Māori corporations? Probably. There are issues with every capitalist construct run for profit. But we treat Māori ones very differently – we treat everything Māori do differently (remember the foreshore and seabed? Remember how nobody seemed to have a problem with rich white people owning whole beaches and islands, but the idea of Māori just having the right to test ownership in court was the end of the world?)
We’ve put Māori in a catch-22: imposing Pākehā capitalism on them, but acting appalled whenever they dare use it to survive.
So this is how it goes. Pākehā make a decision to eradicate fishing rights without consulting Māori, because we know better. Then we decry them for not caring about the environment – which we stole from them and exploited for over a century – and imply they only care about money – which is a good thing if you’re in business but not if you’re brown.
And so we pat ourselves on the back for being More Enlightened About The Environment while literally confiscating land & resources from Māori again.
A tangent on industrialization, climate change and the environment: let’s consider how all the “first world” “developed” nations got to where they are – by pillaging and strip-mining every piece of the planet we could get our hands on – but now we’ve hoarded all the money and resources and built “sophisticated” economies, suddenly we want to scold “less developed” nations for doing exactly the same thing.
Blade Runner and The Fifth Element knew exactly what they were doing when they showed the working classes living beneath the smog layer, is what I’m saying.