Monday, July 17, 2006

Anony Mouse versus Justin Taua

This morning I checked my e mail box to find two messages: a short and sharp comment on the death of the Kahui twins by one Anony Mouse, and the (abridged) text of a talk which Justin Taua gave yesterday at a function organised by the Waitemata branch of the Unite trade union.

Anony Mouse's epistle is typical of the discourse that has surrounded the Kahui case on talkback radio and in mainstream newspapers:

How can you stand up and defend a bunch of deadbeat, alcoholic, no-hopers; blowing thousands of taxpayer dollars a week on their pathetic, violent, booze-fuelled lifestyle; contributing absolutely zero to New Zealand society, and now covering up a double child murder?!?!?

You and your ilk are the reason NZ society has deteriorated so markedly in the last few years in to a unbelievably violent, intimidating and unsafe one...and the reason we would never go back and live there. And the gutless, useless, PC-hobbled NZ police force does nothing, for fear of offending these worthless savages. Can't suspects can be locked up for deliberately withholding information and hindering a police investigation?!?!

While Anony Mouse's mind races uselessly round the mazes made by ignorance and prejudice, Justin Taua is able to cut very quickly to the heart of the Kahui case. But then Justin has two important advantages over our hapless Mouse. In the first place, he is a close relative of the Kahuis, and still lives in the same community as many of them. Secondly, and just as importantly, he is a Marxist, and thus has a method, a way of thinking, which enables him to escape from the maze that imprisons the 'commentators' who fill our airwaves and newspapers with their prejudices. Anony Mouse knows what to think; Justin knows how to think.

Where the Annony Mice exist in a sort of eternal present, thinking in headlines and sound bites and experiencing one bout of hysteria after another, Justin is able to step back and put the tragedy of the Kahui family into some sort of historical and social perspective. His talk on Sunday to Unite members was gratefully received. If only the Annony Mice would listen...

Here's the summary of Justin's talk:

The 2006 launch of Matariki (Maori New Year) on Mangere Mountain had a significance that went beyond the dawn of a new year. Organised by South Auckland police and Maori leaders, it marked yet another point at which Maori and the poor had been hoodwinked into taking responsibility for social problems totally the result of political and economic dysfunction.

The crowd of 800 or so were gathered to commemorate the deaths of 115 NZers to die in domestic violence over the previous 10 years. It took on a special poignancy in relation to the most recent family tragedy; the deaths of baby twins Chris and Cru Kahui. A woman’s voice rang out “They’re just rubbish…they should all be tossed in jail.” To which the crowd reacted with loud applause. That reaction would set the theme for the solemn events of that miserable winter morning. The rule of the lynch mob was very much in evidence, but so was the thought of political opportunism. The trial by media and presumption of guilt has been but a foretaste of things to come.
The families and individuals who are part of the rootless army of excess cheap labour, unable to cope, too poor and demoralised, are forced to gather in clusters under one roof to share the ever increasing cost of living. Hope is drenched in a cocktail of drugs, alcohol and slot machines. At every stage along the way, the wheels of profit suck the very dignity out of these people. This is life for the Kahui whanau.

PM Helen Clark’s announcement that a special working task force be set up to investigate housing where overcrowding by beneficiaries is a problem, will in short amount to a witch-hunt. Without addressing the real problem of insufficient housing, that task force is more likely to recommend more sweeping powers for the police. In a climate of increasing draconian State intervention (War on Terror) and ‘get tough on crime’, the scene is set for a standardised imperialist police state modelled on that of which the United States is hoping to achieve.

When Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples was asked to intervene by one of his personal staff (also a Kahui), it was in accordance with the kaupapa of whanaungatanga (supporting family) as well as his duty as MP for Tamaki. For the state and traditionalists, the mana of that leadership together with that of tribal elders was being put to the test.

The inevitable failure of that intervention can be put down to the new mode of Maori leaders being no more than bureaucratic bargaining agents for the State. Sharples’ description of the Kahui whanau as ‘dysfunctional’ and showing disrespect towards himself and the elders, shows how out of touch and blind to the real causes he and that leadership are. Stripped of any real power, their limited politics and compromise has forced many individuals and communities to seek alternative directions.
For the more marginalised such as the Kahui whanau, that direction could potentially have a more brutal outcome. As gang affiliates, they know the retributional nature of gang justice, particularly in regards to crimes against children. Their silence has meant a determination to settle justice on their own terms with honour and without interference from the State. Unlike State law where the aggrieved are no more than passive bystanders; it is the aggrieved who will decide the fate of the guilty.

To paint the Kahui whanau as honourable would force the State to give recognition to a set of values outside of its control. Political and media silence on the issue is driven by the fear of opening up a Pandora’s Box that would threaten to undermine bourgeois power and authority. The recent case of two Headhunters tried for chopping off the finger of a fellow gang member for breaking gang rules, reminds us that parallel justice (or injustice) systems do exist outside of the State in Aotearoa.

Workers could independently put the ‘system’ on trial and set up courts to try the real criminals responsible for inflicting the chaotic ‘dysfunction’ that is capitalism. Its reactionary barbarism and gang behaviour expropriated from the past would be consigned to history.

None of the concerns focused on the issue of guilt, have addressed where the real guilt lies. Justice determined outside of workers control is always going to be in the interests of individuals who do not have the mandate of the majority who constitute the working class.

The present reality for workers is far from what is being described. But independence as a working class free of State control is a goal that must be achieved in order to affect the process leading to revolutionary change. By doing so, real and lasting justice will come to babies Chris and Cru Kahui together with their distant cousin Steven Wallace all working class descendants from Ngaruahine Iwi of South Taranaki.

Te Taua Karuwhero Kahui


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