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Sunday, August 21, 2005

Our unsuccessful democracy

Racist gatekeepers. In the past they were primarily English.

Deferrence to the views of newly arrived Englishmen because of their percieved closeness, immediacy to the "Home" to which they assumed we belong exclusively and the assumption of automatic superior standards by the colonial locals of these people gave them an air of authority in all matters. If they wanted a colour bar or to initiate some sort of racial preference or privilege then it was accepted.

When the English-accented leader of the Liberterianz Party says he wants to abolish the Treaty of Waitangi, when Michael Cullen and Dale Jones - both originally English nationals (and maybe still are) - write the Foreshore and Seabed Act so that it implicitly imputes that if a Pakeha has touched Maori property it becomes the property of the government and thence can be leased off in perpituity to Pakeha, when we have both major parties trumpeting the sale of Crown land to Pakeha farmers as policy but make it tourtuous for Maori to regain property taken unjustly from them, we have to wonder if we have really made any progress at all in liberating ourselves from such a disgraceful situation. When we have members of Parliament who are also citizens of other countries what credibility do they have in forging our future when they are fundamentally conflicted?

John Stuart Mill, amongst many other liberal-type political philosphers, wondered if democracy can operate successfully where ignorance and prejudice subsumes most of the voting population. In this country, where our own history is only now being taught in any serious manner and the legacy of unchallenged public bigotry is compounded annually with tens of thousands of immigrants who bring with them their own prejudices and whom cannot know anything of us, we have an unsuccessful democracy. If our system rewards bigotry, enables non-citizens to vote, encourages people who cannot communicate in either of the official languages to vote, then is it any wonder we have neither respect for locals and their customs or any constitutional protections for our rights and property.

Citizens must constitute the exclusive group that decides how we rule ourselves, ie. voters.
Citizens who have no other nationality must constitute the legislative and executive, ie. parliament.


At 22/8/05 12:48 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, how about having NO RACISM mentioned in our laws at all, so we are all just citizens.

Then run it on VOLUNTARY tax, so the Govt has to convince us that their ideas are worthwhile.

That will remove the way they force us to give up land and money to them!

At 22/8/05 3:26 pm, Blogger t selwyn said...

I don't think the words "voluntary" and "tax" can be used together - that is a contradiction in terms. Also, removal of taxation might encourage "force" if the government doesn't like the level of donations.... but this is all academic.

Go to the constitutional convention site and make a suggestion if you are interested.

At 22/8/05 3:54 pm, Blogger Duncan Bayne said...

Nice dodge, there. How about addressing the significant point in the original post - which is, why not remove all racist laws, and have all New Zealanders treated equally by law?

At 22/8/05 5:59 pm, Blogger t selwyn said...

Dodge? I didn't address the question because I agree with Anon's proposition: "NO RACISM mentioned in our laws at all, so we are all just citizens."

You state: "remove all racist laws" - and I agree, starting with sec.32 of the Foreshore and Seabed Act.
...and "have all New Zealanders treated equally by law" - I also agree.

There is also a problem with the laws in the past that were racist which have been cemented in by (seemingly) non-racist laws, eg. land confiscations. If those laws are "removed" but leave behind racist injustices they are as good as if they are still in operation - which they are despite being superceded (or swept under the carpet or camoflaged) as the case may be.

But here's an example for you of what may be racist to some, but not others: The Maori Wardens.

Established under the Maori Community Development (?) Act 1962, they may do a worthwhile and thankless task and act as frontline social welfare officers who assist all sorts of people, but because the Act says their mandate is to have power over Maori exclusively I consider it to be racist legislation. Even if every single person who has ever had contact with a Maori Warden has been helped, or was done with consent, and there has never been a single complaint, it still stands that the legislative purpose is to help one particular ethnic group exclusively and (and this is the important part) it gives powers to people over an exclusive ethnic group. Another way of approaching it is to argue why Pakeha should not have the same type of care and intrusion.

Now, in practice they could have achieved almost the same outcomes by making it apply to everyone. Indeed, if only one ethnic group had a problem that needed to be dealt with by a law it is not necessarily racist for that to occur unless the law specifically prevents or excludes others from the same. For example, an affliction (physical or cultural) for one group only could be legislated for on a consistent basis.

Following on from that another example I consider to be racist is the female genital mutilation provisions in the Crimes Act; because it specifically sets out to criminalise a non-Western cultural practise but (and this is the important part) it leaves male genital mutilation as lawful. This is culturally relativist and a clear preference for one culture and against another - based on race - yes, I think so. If the people mutilating genitals of girls were white Christians and black Muslims were mutilating genitals of males I think you know what they would have done - and no, the answer isn't "come to their senses, see their own hypocrisy, and approach things on a consistent basis". They would have called the practise "barbaric" and go on about how generations of boys had been affected etc. They are upholding and officially excusing their own practises that seem inconsistent with banning others - that stems from racism (and a misplaced sense of cultural superiority).

So, we have to look for things like that too. Most racist legislation, of course, does not mention race at all. It may make reference to carrying on or validating racist decisions of the past, or classify things that could effect only one ethnic group.

The other problem in assessing whether everything based on race is necessarily wrong is whether it is only used in practice to favour or disfavour certain races.

The other problem is that Maori have their own customary laws, practices etc. that have been acknowledged in law (Land tenure systems for example). This is usually cited as being "race-based" or an unfair privilege and contrary to "citizenship" in some way by many Pakeha. To the extent that these things concern Maori property it is up to the property owners to determine what rules they have. If Pakeha want the same rules over their property then maybe there should be provision for that.

I've given some examples, (probably raised more questions than answers) but perhaps you, or some others, can give examples of what they consider to be racist parts of law (or entire laws) that need to be amended and why.

At 22/8/05 6:33 pm, Blogger t selwyn said...

Forgot the Maori parliamentary seats. That's a rather obvious one.

At 28/8/05 2:31 am, Anonymous ras said...

...another example I consider to be racist is the female genital mutilation provisions in the Crimes Act; because it specifically sets out to criminalise a non-Western cultural practise but (and this is the important part) it leaves male genital mutilation as lawful. This is culturally relativist...

*sigh* Cultural relativism would allow whatever barabaric practice a "culture" wanted to persue. What you meant to say is that it's ethnocentric -sorry "racist".


...and no, the answer isn't "come to their senses, see their own hypocrisy, and approach things on a consistent basis".

Yeah because there are no examples of that -so long as we ignore such things as, oh I dunno, ending slavery, universal voting rights, thousands of various civil rights movements, the Waitangi Tribunal...

At 28/8/05 3:10 pm, Blogger t selwyn said...

...was the use of "culturally relativist" incorrect in the sense I used it? To quote Wiki:

The critical function of cultural relativism is widely understood; philosopher John Cook observed that "It is aimed at getting people to admit that although it may seem to them that their moral principles are self-evidently true, and hence seem to be grounds for passing judgement on other peoples, in fact, the self-evidence of these principles is a kind of illusion" (Cook 1978). Although Cook is misconstruing cultural relativism to be identical to moral relativism, his point still applies to the broader understanding of the term.

Cultural relativism, moral relativism, ethnocentricity, racism and even sexism could all be applied to the case in point... arguably.

Your counter-examples to progress on rights is accurate, but misunderstands my point which was that no consistency in the application of such progress is evident - the gender-specific mutilation ban occued only a few years ago, and whilst representing progress for some was also a denial to others - based on a very deep, historic/religious/cultural bias of the vast majority of the legislators. Such bias has been overcome in the past and I hope it will again. It's just that these confrontations with our past take political balls that are reserved only for anti-smoking and feminist agendas these days, so I'm not holding my breath.


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