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Maori Hobbit Relationships

Today was another day where various interesting issues were being discussed around the country (New Zealand in my case). They ranged from the future of the Maori language, to whether we want to produce the movie “The Hobbit” here, to what sort of relationships are appropriate between university staff and students. So let’s get started…

The Maori language has been a source of anguish for many years now. For those who support it the concern has originated from its diminishing use and lessening relevance and for many others the distress has originated from politically motivated attempts at making people use it more.

The leader of the Maori party is concerned that, despite the fact that there are numerous programs designed to encourage its use, the language is dying out as one which is used as an important means of communication and has become something which is used more by non-Maori as a source of short phases and the occasional word or two. In other words people are happy to learn “kia ora” as a greeting but often don’t know much beyond that!

I’m not being critical of people who don’t use it because I have no interest in it myself. In fact, often when people greet me with “kia ora” I reply with “bonjour”! There’s nothing wrong with learning Maori but it’s just not something I have the time or inclination to be involved with and I suspect a lot of other people who are forced into using Maori phrases by policy would agree.

So Maori is dying and successive governments putting it on “life support” isn’t likely to change that. In my opinion we would be better to let nature take its course and allow a language with little relevance in the modern world to naturally merge into New Zealand English. I would like to see some Maori being a natural part of our local dialect of English and I think that if the stigma of political correctness was removed from it a lot more people would be happy to cooperate.

So what about The Hobbit? The Lord of the Rings was filmed in New Zealand of course, and it has done a lot for our local movie industry as well as increasing the country’s profile overseas. So clearly filming quality, high budget movies here is a good thing in many ways.

But how far should we go to encourage huge foreign companies to work here? Should we be prepared to offer favourable work regulations for the big companies, should we offer them tax incentives, how far should we go to make them welcome?

Considering that incentives are generally disapproved of by so many people now, especially those of the political right, it’s ironic that they are being so seriously considered in this case. Why should one industry or even one part of that industry get favourable treatment? Doesn’t this create (gasp! oh the evil of it!) an uneven playing field?

And should a huge overseas company refuse to negotiate with local technicians and actors regarding pay and conditions? Of course not. Playing political games is totally inappropriate and Peter Jackson should be ashamed of himself for treating his fellow New Zealanders this way. Maybe success and excessive exposure to Hollywood has made him forget about the traditional New Zealand attributes of fairness and tolerance.

It seems to me that the whole sorry situation is a deliberate ploy by the production company to get the best possible deal from New Zealand’s workers and government (who are already talking about changing employment regulations). It’s a pretty dirty way of working and the unions have unfortunately been rather cleverly manipulated into making themselves look like the bad guys.

Finally relationships between staff and students of universities. Although I work in a university that wasn’t the motivation for writing this. It was more about the more general subject of what rights an employer should have to control its employees. Even if two people are both part of an organisation in different roles I can’t see how that organisation has any right to say what they do in their own time.

The specific event which lead to this case was a relationship between a lecturer and a student but that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that the lecturer was a homicidal lunatic and needed psychiatric help. The problem was also that his violent behaviour was ignored and he didn’t get that help until the worst happened. Maybe the university should have a policy of not employing murderers instead!

If a company or other organisation employs someone and pays them for a specific job I can’t see how they can claim the right to control what they do in their own time. The university’s decision to officially disapprove of these relationships without trying to specifically ban them is surely the correct approach.

So yes, for a small country, we have lot’s of interesting things going on here at the moment. There’s always plenty of subject material to comment on, especially regarding the political machinations of society in general!

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