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Reverse Racism?

According to Winston Churchill democracy is the worst form of government… apart from all the rest! In other words, despite its problems we don’t have anything better. So if most people agree that democracy is the ideal to aim for shouldn’t we be upholding its principles as much as possible?

It seems to me that one of the major principles of democracy is equality. Everyone should get a say in electing their government. Of course, that doesn’t happen: for example people younger than a certain age can’t vote. Is that undemocratic? It would be worse though if some members of society were given a greater say in the democratic process than others. For example, if a certain group were given a special voting category or even had representatives appointed instead of elected.

No one would put up with this in general but its exactly what certain Maori (for foreign readers, Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand) groups want in the new authority if the Auckland “supercity” goes ahead. Now for many people the issue becomes different. Because its now an issue of race the extreme opinions come out on both sides.

On one side we get the opinion that Maori are “tangata whenua” (a conveniently vague term that seems to imply anyone labelling themselves as such should get special privileges) and of course they should have guaranteed representation. On the other we have the opinion that Maori should get nothing more than anyone else. There are also more extreme opinions saying they should get less but I’ll ignore these because they can’t really be justified.

While I am usually labelled a liberal I do take a more conservative (sorry to stereotype the two sides of the argument like that) view here. If we are going to have a democracy then let’s have one. No one should have special privileges or guaranteed representation. Apparently most people agree with me because the Herald poll showed over 80% of participants disagreed with the idea of special Maori rights.

Special rights are wrong for both sides. Not only is it insulting to non-Maori because it effectively says they aren’t as important, but its also insulting to Maori because it suggests they need special help to participate in the political system instead if relying on their own merit.

OK, it would be unfortunate if there was no Maori representatives on the new council but that problem can easily be solved. Just make sure there is a person running for election who has strong views regarding Maori issues and get the 11% (or whatever it is) of Maori to vote for him/her. If no one is prepared to stand for election and insufficient people are prepared to vote then there probably shouldn’t be that representation there anyway.

Also, there are the legal processes which guarantee Maori have a say in most new planning and building projects. Yes, I know many people would say those are also racist but let’s not go there at this point!

I don’t really have a firm opinion either for or against the so-called supercity. I live near the opposite end of the country so I really don’t care (I reject the claim that Auckland is the “engine room” of the economy or that for New Zealand to thrive Auckland must be looked after). I have heard reasons for the change ranging from making Auckland a lot more efficient to creating an environment where its assets can be sold off to foreign owners. I certainly hope the government isn’t embarking on the disastrous path of foreign asset sales again, even if it is just Auckland!

So its the Maori representation issue which is more interesting to me. Many people think we should eliminate the Maori seats in the national electoral system as well. I agree they do make the process less democratic and with a proportional representation system they are unnecessary so I would like to see them go. But with the Maori Party being a partner in the current government that might not be easy.

So I think these extra privileges Maori are given are undemocratic and are racist as well. The question is are those negative aspects balanced or exceeded by the positive aspects? With the current political environment here I don’t think so. Reverse racism is still racism and it would take a lot to justify that!

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  1. chuckbert
    May 26, 2009 at 9:18 am

    Interest group, lobby groups lead to these ‘special rights’. Eveyone is too afraid to tell them to ‘sod off’.

    Democracy means everyone has one vote. Groups like these get around that by swaying public opinion so people no longer vote for what they believe is best for them (how a democracy ideally works) , to what they believe is right for the country (a belief system that is prejudiced by the media, politicians, and interest groups.

    I say, stuff ’em. Traditional owners or not, the process of natural selection has selected other races and societies they must now integrate with. If that’s not good enough, pick up your Maori weapon of choice and try take the land by force – that was how the British got it from you.

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