Bernard's fling with TINA
Here's a quick response to the interesting discussions under my posts on Quest for Security and Bernard Gadd. I think I perhaps didn't explain clearly enough what I see as the tragic irony of the elderly Gadd's critique of biculturalism and his attempts to rewrite nineteenth century history.
Bernard Gadd was a fierce opponent of the right-wingers who used the notorious 'TINA' (There Is No Alternative) argument to justify their 'reforms' in the '80s and '90s. He contested their claims that the choice Kiwis faced in that period was either the crisis-ridden society Muldoon presided over or the ruthless 'modernisation' represented by Rogernomics. Of course, there were numerous areas of New Zealand society and the New Zealand economy which needed to change after voters tossed Muldoon out - but there was an alternative to what the Rogernomes practiced. I think all of those commenting here are agreed on that point.
I think the essay Gadd submitted to brief is a tragic document because it applies the sort of false dichotomy and straw man arguments of the neo-liberals he despised to nineteenth century New Zealand history.
Gadd wants us to choose between pre-contact Maori society, on the one hand, and British imperialism, on the other. He makes imperialism synonymous with development. If you don't accept the enclosure of Maori land and the imposition of British capitalism and culture then, according to Gadd, you are some hopeless Romantic who wants to go and live in an idealised bush Eden. (Gadd's picture of pre-contact Maori society is also simplified and unfair, but we'll talk about that another time.)
Gadd makes his highly simplistic opposition between imperialism-progress and anti-imperialism-backwardness into a prism through which he views nineteenth century New Zealand history. And, because his starting assumption is radically wrong, all his statements about the particulars of nineteenth century New Zealand history are also way off the mark.
Gadd makes a couple of asides acknowledging the brutal nature of imperialism, but he nonetheless regards it as inevitable and 'objectively' progressive. I'm very sorry, he says, but one can't make an omlete without breaking a few eggs.
The truth is that, just as there were different and better ways of modernising New Zealand's economy and reforming its society in the '80s and '90s, so there were far better ways of modernising Maori society in the 19th century.
Imperialism 'modernised' Maori by killing many of them, taking swathes of their land, and driving them to the margins of the economy. Before the wars of the 1860s and '70s, Maori had been controlling the process of modernisation. Gadd claims that they were incapable of feeding the country on the land they owned, and that therefore, according to pseudo-Marxist 'iron laws of history' that Marx himself rejected, Maori had to be expropriated by the British.
Gadd can't explain why in the early 1860s a market gardening economy was booming in the Waikato Kingdom, and feeding frustrated would-be settlers in Auckland and other Pakeha-dominated parts of the North Island. He can't explain why flour mills were being built from Matamata to Mokau, and why Maori were buying their own fleets of ships to deliver exports not only to Auckland but to Sydney.
The same sort of phenomenon was observed, on a smaller scale, in Parihaka in the 1870s and early 1880s. Parihaka had street lighting before Wellington, and was the envy of the settlers on adjoining lands. They looted the place when it was finally invaded by Crown forces.
Imperialism acted, and continues to act, as a break on Maori development, as I noted in an article on the history of Tuhoe attempts to develop their resources in the face of alternating periods of neglect and sabotage from the state.
If Maori had been able to continue to develop the economic model represented by the Waikato and Parihaka, then they would have had been able to modernise under their own terms, adopting what they wanted from the rest of the world without being subjected to the sort of assimilationism that was a feature of New Zealand state policy from the 1860s to the 1970s.
A lot of the pseudo-historians who claim that Celts or Chinese or little green men got here before Maori believe that remarkable aspects of Maori culture like carving and tattooing must have been taken over from earlier, superior civilisations. They can't see how Maori could possibly have produced such cultural treasures. Of course, their incredulity is based on an unacknowledged racism. In much the same way, Gadd's refusal to believe that Maori could possibly have handled the process of modernisation without conquest and assimilation smacks of uninterrogated prejudices.
If you want a glimpse of the relevance of the sort of debate I've been having with Gadd to the world of the twenty-first century, then take a look at this article on the fine Indian blog Kafila. The enclosures are far from over.