The commentariat is all aflame attacking the “Hobson’s Pledge” movement, launched this week by Don Brash. Their vision for New Zealand, they say, “is a society in which all citizens are equal before the law, irrespective of when they or their ancestors arrived in this land.” Brash warns in particular of “iwi participation agreements” in proposed RMA amendments that “would virtually entrench co-governance and partnership obligations with some Maori into local government, creating an under-the-radar constitutional change”; and cites the ongoing farce of Maori seats in parliament and, increasingly, in local government that tribalises governance and decreases democracy and individual rights.
But “they’re racist!” says the commentariat in response. Which is odd, because the very foundation statement of the “Hobson’s Pledge” movement is that we should all be colour-blind before the law. (Hence, Hobson's Pledge, i.e., “He Iwi Tahi Tatou | We Are Now One People.” And in calling the group things like "pale, male and stale," their opponents themselves reveal just a touch of the racism (and sexism) they claim to oppose.
So how do we resolve this apparent contradiction? Let’s start by looking at how several alleged luminaries justify their claim.
Writing for Stuff, Laura McQuillan doesn’t even try to. “Is Don Brash's new Hobson's Pledge the support group that white people need?” she asks rhetorically in a piece that bizarrely references “Black Lives Matter,” the National Front and some skinhead group called Right Wing Resistance before pulling out and quoting entirely unrelated comments on a piece of clickbait she’d written the week before asking “Which is New Zealand’s whitest region?” all garnished with a quote she’d simply made up herself from a fellow she claims to be “leader” of 1Law4All. (He’s not.) But I bet she thinks she’s not the racist – and that making up quotes is probably “justified corruption.”
Talking out of his arse, Hone Harawira also simply asserts the moot. "Come on, absolutely this is racism and it's time somebody called it out," he says, offering no argument for his claim Brash is “a redneck or a racist.” Neither does professional Maori Willie Jackson, who litters his “debate” with Brash will claims that he’s old, that he’s talking rubbish, that everyone is against Maori, and that so-called “urban Maori” need more privileges from the government. Jackson, of course, represents (or claims to) so-called “urban Maori.”
Jackson, Harawira, Susan Devoy and others talk about the bad “outcomes” that confront Maori, young and old, but none bother to address the claim that the law is not colour-blind and should be, nor show that these bad outcomes can in any way be attributed to racism. (Indeed, a strong argument exists that it is Maori over-reliance on welfare and legal privilege that has all but guaranteed the bad outcomes they cite.)
But there’s more. Media darling Toby Manhire takes on the important topic of logos and where the Hobson’s Pledge website got that picture above. Answer: like most media pics these days (including those the luminaries themselves use, it’s from an American photo library.)
Tim Watkin too conflates the issue of privilege and legal privilege, as if they were one and the same. (No, Tim, they’re not.) But he at least acknowledges the existence of so-called “affirmative action,” while asserting its effects have been positive – “what Brash calls 'Maori privilege.'” he says, “others call redressing the wrongs of history… an effort to tackle 150 years of race-based privilege [that] is helping avoid more unrest in this country.” (How Maori seats, Maori scholarships, Maori welfare, Maori educational tokenism, and iwi co-governance in local government “avoids unrest” we are not told however.) And he is big enough too to acknowledge “there are valid issues lurking among [what he calls] nonsense -
for example, the fact that settlements are based on where tribes happened to sit in a moment of history (1840), how far respect for Maori spirituality goes and how we manage Maori representation in local government. But it's all based on an intellectual foundation made of rubble and rubbish. The profound wisdom that we should all be equal before the law is twisted and imprisoned in what becomes an argument for privilege to be entrenched with a certain people (Pakeha) at a certain time in history (today).
If you can make sense of that last sentence, by the way, then you’re a better parser of sentences than I.
He argues constitutional law, and gets it wrong, saying:
They [the Hobson’s Pledge movement] show their failure to understand the most basic ideas of a constitution, by on one hand saying "The Treaty of Waitangi is not in any meaningful sense New Zealand’s constitution" and yet in the very next line saying that the Treaty did cede sovereignty, protect property rights and establish Maori as British subjects.
Even given that slanted interpretation, it clearly acknowledges that the treaty deals with rights and power, which is, er, what a constitution is all about.
It’s certainly true that ceding sovereignty, protecting property rights, and establishing Maori as British subjects with all the rights and privileges thereof are the foundations for something that might become a constitution – something, importantly, that would elucidate what those rights and privileges are, and how a government would be constituted to protect them. That something would be a constitution. But it would need something much more comprehensive than the Treaty’s three spare clauses to become one.
And it would need much else excised from modern law …
I’ve been saving the best for last. In recent years Mihinirangi Forbes has become almost the patron saint of media types. Posted at the taxpayer-funded ivory tower of Radio NZ under the title of “Analysis,” RNZ’s “Māori Issues Correspondent” asks of Brash and co right off the bat ‘How Pākehā are you?’ It’s worth some fisking because it captures so many of the criticisms.
The group's website is emblazoned with the saying "He iwi tahi tātou - One People" - a phrase famously used by Governor William Hobson as he greeted Māori chiefs as they arrived to sign the Treaty of Waitangi, the country's founding document.
It's a document guaranteeing iwi full, exclusive and undisturbed possession of their lands, forests and fisheries. That's not promoted on the lobby group's website.
Well, yes it is. Unfortunately, however, it’s promoted under the aegis of the conspiratorial “Littlewood Treaty” nonsense that talks about pieces of paper being discovered years later in drawers that, say the claimants, just happen to be the real Treaty.
The group nonetheless do acknowledge, and on the group’s very front page, that the Treaty did in fact guarantee to protect the property rights of all New Zealanders – those being the rights of both non-Maori and Maori over property they wish and desire to retain in their possession, to recognise all the relevant words of the document in question. And it’’s worth noting that Forbes and others fail themselves to promote the document’s guarantee that sovereignty was in fact ceded by the signatories.
Important point that.
Forbes equivocation over the word “privilege” is of a piece with Watkins’s. The Treaty guaranteed all the rights and privileges of British citizens. Not more rights, or greater privileges. Not affirmative action or co-governance.
She continues, citing (as dishonest hacks will) the weaker arguments she can find from protagonists, before summing up in he r words the aim of the group:
Hobson's Pledgers are calling for a colourblind New Zealand, but one group featured prominently in spokesperson Dr Brash's interviews: Māori.
Other members thought it important to question how Māori some Māori actually were.
A lot buried in two sentences.
Yes, Hobson's Pledgers are calling for a colourblind New Zealand. That this means they are arguing against the committed programme of affirmative action in favour or Maori means that the ongoing programme of affirmative action in favour or Maori be mentioned. No mystery there.
Yet she’s right to note that an organisation talking about being colourblind needs to be rigorous in its own ocular hygiene, and how Maori some Maori actually are is and always should be wholly irrelevant to anyone truly colourblind. So she has a point.
Mr McVicker, Mike Butler and Mr Oakley seemed offended when asked how Pākehā they were. They all said the question was irrelevant, with Mr Butler calling it a "race-based question."
But they had no difficulty talking about the percentage of Māori blood people might have, including myself [says Forbes].
She has a point. A point I’ve made to many of these people before, and one that Forbes to her credit has recognised that Brash avoids.
But she concludes with the same equivocation as many others, between legal and economic privilege.
What did the human beings think of Māori inequalities in health, education, life expectancy or incarceration?
Mr Shirtcliffe offered a quick reply:
"We are a very simple, single focused movement relating to the issue of equality in governance and
property rights; other issues are not for us."
Almost the right response. But that issue must be “for them,” because if that equivocation remains unchallenged, this ship called Hobson’s Pledge will take on water as every other similar project has.
And it will only fuel the cries of “racism,” even where it doesn’t exist.
So how do the critics of the group defend their claim that the group is racist? Simple: they don’t try to. They don’t even define what they mean by it, since of course that would make their job harder: Racism being:
Assessing the worth of a person by his skin colour and ancestry. The lowest form of collectivism -- what author Ayn Rand calls a "barnyard" form of collectivism.
The Pledgers don’t help themselves with ridiculous talk of bloodlines in a discussion that’s supposed to be about being colourblind, but the commentators don’t even try to properly justify what should be a serious claim, because they’re never, ever called on their dysphasia by their media colleagues, and nor do they expect to. They publish in the full expaction of being able to write nonsense because they’ve all been taught the doctrine of “multiculturalism”: that all races are equal except for the one they think is “in power.” (Racism, to the Marxist/multiculturalist not at all being about colourblind individualism but about “power structures” and who inhabits them. Racism in this sense then being very much about not being colourblind, but about being able to skewer the “pale,male and stale” wherever you may find them.)
This is how the likes of McQuillan can write lightweight fluff and Jackson can rely on nothing more than barroom bluster – and Forbes as can ask “how pakeha are you?” without being racist -- because they can all be confident that (to paraphrase Saul Alinsky) any means are justified in carrying out a social-justice warrior’s ends.
It’s how they can acknowledge all the affirmative action in favour of a race, can watch a race-based party form and exploit race-based seats, can sit back and say nothing as a race-based elite lord it over the peons they claim to represent, all because in their minds these people are not “part of the power structure” – yet will write up a hyperbolic fervour should anyone have the temerity to call for one law for all.
They’re out of their minds.