Aidan Work and the absurdities of Pakeha separatism
Race relations are likely to be a topic of conversation around the nation's barbies over the Christmas and New Year break, thanks to the government's decision to allow the flying of the tino rangatiratanga flag at Waitangi Day ceremonies, and its endorsement of the Geographic Board's judgement that an 'h' should be added to the name of the fair town of Wanganui.
Although they only concern symbols, both decisions are responses to long campaigns by Maori, and both raise tricky questions about the character of New Zealand society and the New Zealand state. On talkback radio and on right-wing blogs, the backlash against 'Maori separatism' and 'the desecration of our flag' has begun. Caller after caller and commenter after commenter warns that advocates of tino rangatiratanga want to dismantle New Zealand and to physically separate Maori from Pakeha, perhaps by sending the latter back to Britain on the next ship.
I have argued in a number of posts that the equation of tino rangatiratanga with the dismemberment of New Zealand and the establishment of a separate Maori state is largely a figment of the Pakeha imagination. Since the invasion and sacking of Rua Kenana's community at Maungapohatu in 1916, there has been no large-scale secessionist movement amongst Maori. While activists like Eva Rickard and Tame Iti have at one time or another made declarations of independence on behalf of the people of various rohe, these proclamations have been tools to promote particular campaigns for the righting of past injustices, not serious stabs at secession. The 'Takimoana nation' proclaimed in the East Cape region of the North Island in 2007 appears to be a more serious proposal, but it seems to have attracted few enthusiasts. Even Tuhoe, the bete noire of Pakeha talkback hosts, are demanding only regional autonomy in their ongoing Treaty of Waitangi negotiations with the Crown.
The evidence suggests that, for the vast majority of its advocates, tino rangatiratanga means the creation of what Jose Aylwin has called a 'pluri-national' state, in which indigenous people have the freedom to set up their own institutions to deal with their own concerns. During his recent lecture tour of New Zealand, Aylwin showed that the ideal of a pluri-national state is becoming a reality in Bolivia and in Ecuador, where indigenous peoples are winning regional and economic autonomy.
I would argue that it is Pakeha, not Maori, who are raising the spectre of separatism in our country today. When Maori suggest the elaboration of the New Zealand state, so that it embodies the binational ideal they see in the Treaty of Waitangi, right-wing Pakeha - and one or two supposedly left-wing Pakeha, as well - respond by talking about the dismemberment of New Zealand, and fantasise about the corralling of Maori and Pakeha into separate states.
A comment that Aidan Work recently left on this blog shows up some of the ironies of Pakeha separatism. Work appears fairly typical of some of the characters who populate the socially conservative part of the right-wing fringe of Kiwi politics. In the 1990s he achieved renown in certain circles as a critic of the Family Court, and of the wider machinations of the 'feminist conspiracy' against good Kiwi blokes. More recently, he has blogged about the perfidies of Republicanism , and been expelled from the Monarchist League for an excess of fervour. Although Work is fond of questioning the patriotism of his political opponents, his contribution to this blog advocates secession from New Zealand:
I reckon that Michael Laws was more than right to have referred the issue to a referendum...
As for Tariana Turia, she is the most racist person I've ever met, considering that she is not only a racist crook, but a criminal advocate of apartheid. All this talk of 'Tino Rangatiratanga' is a load of bullshit. It makes my blood boil with anger that the Maori Nationalist criminals are allowed to get away with promoting their hate, thanks to the politicians who are sitting in Parliament appeasing the so-called 'Maori Party', who are nothing but a bunch of criminals anyway!
...I'm a native of Wanganui myself...The time for amending the Race Relations Act,1971 to proscribe criminal outfits, such as both the so-called 'Maori Party' & the 'National Front' is long overdue, as is for inserting a clause to provide for the death penalty to be imposed on those who engage in promoting apartheid.
As one who opposed the illegal occupation of Moutoa Gardens back in 1995, I still remain extremely angry that no-one has been called to account, let alone, been put on trial.
The time for Wanganui to secede from the Dominion of New Zealand is long overdue! Wanganui would be better off as a British colony like Bermuda, the Falkland Islands, & Gibraltar.
Work's proposal for the secession of Wanganui would appear to kill several birds with one stone: it would dispose of attempts by the government in Wellington to change the town's name, it would render irrelevant the question of whether or not the tino rangatiratanga banner should fly beside the 'official' Kiwi flag, and it would deprive the evil Tariana Turia of a fair chunk of her electorate (although, since Turia would, in Work's ideal world, be sitting in prison awaiting execution, the redrawing of her electorate boundaries perhaps wouldn't trouble her too much).
And, who knows, the Brits might even be keen on reabsorbing Wanganui. Despite the gangs Michael Laws is always talking about, the place would probably be easier to run than Basra.
Work's proposal has something of a precedent, too, on the central west coast of Te Ika a Maui. In 1879 a Republic of Hawera was briefly established in the south Taranaki, by a local landowner - 'President' James Livingstone - and his armed and exclusively Pakeha supporters. Like Aidan Work, the Hawera settlers were motivated by anti-Maori bigotry: they had been frustrated by the failure of the government in Wellington to suppress the movement of passive resistance to land sales that was being led by the Parihaka prophet Te Whiti. The Hawera secessionists hoped that by establishing their own state they would be able to deal more ruthlessly with the troublesome prophet and his followers, but they were quickly placated by Wellington, and in 1881 they rejoiced at the invasion of Parihaka and the smashing of Te Whiti's power.
More recently, there have been rather quixotic attempts to establish a Pakeha ethno-state in some of the remoter regions of Te Wai Pounamu by Kyle Chapman and his neo-Nazi chums. After 'patrolling' a slice of the southern high country with their air rifles, and Kyle and co announced plans to buy land for a whites-only settlement in north Canterbury. Unfortunately for Kyle, WINZ wasn't keen on paying for his idea.
Aidan Work's proposal for the secession of Wanganui is no more likely to bear fruit than Chapman's campaign to win lebensraum on the Canterbury steppe. In its very extremity, though, Work's position brings clearly out some of the essential features of the right-wing Pakeha backlash against tino rangatiratanga. Work's demand that the Maori Party be violently repressed is only an exaggerated version of the call by so many blog commenters and talkback callers for the abolition of the Maori seats and MMP, which are held responsible for 'giving the Maoris too much power'.
Work's silly attempts to compare the Maori Party to Sinn Fein and the Zimbabwe African National Union - organisations with their own, very particular national antecdents - reflects a widespread Pakeha failure to understand the Maori political leaders of the present in terms of New Zealand's past, and the Maori experience of that past. And Work's rather pathetic appeal to dear old Blighty to rescue Wanganui from the savages reflects the failure of conservative Pakeha to embrace their identity and destiny as New Zealanders, rather than seeing themselves as displaced sons and daughters of Empire.
As usual, talkback radio has got it wrong. It's Pakeha racism and separatism we should be worried about, not the advocates of tino rangatiratanga.