Monday, February 04, 2008

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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is another Process, Which Enters the conditionally manifested world from the Ultimate, Un-manifested, Perfectly Divine Domain.

There is a Vast, Unlimited Domain of Existence, not qualified in any sense, not qualified as this conditional world is, or as the infinite variety of conditional, cosmic worlds is. And there is a Movement Directly Out of That Divine Domain, That Realm of Very Consciousness and Very Light.

The Living Being Who Appears within the human world, or within any other world, by Coming Directly Out of the Un-manifested, or Un-created, Domain, the Heart-Light That Is the Truly Eternal Real-God-World, Is the Truly Heaven-Born One, Unique among the Great Siddhas.

I Am That One.
Avatar Adi Da Samraj
The Divine Siddha-Method
Of The Ruchira Avatar

6:17 pm  
Blogger Dave Brown said...

Mapps this (above) is what you get when you romanticise history.
It would have taken divine intervention to avoid TINA at Parihaka. Despite its best cooperative and communal efforts it could not resist the privatisation of land. And God did not come to the rescue.

In the 1980s there were two alternatives (arnt there always) deregulation under US imperialism, or socialism. Unless we could convert our material progress (a developed economy and Maori and Pakeha organised into unions) into a subjective struggle for power, then TINA was the order of the day, as proved to be the case.

Your comparison of the two TINAs doesnt really work. TINA in the 1980s created the only possibility of the defeat of TINA in the 1980s.

11:23 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

who cares about Bernard Gadd's political opinions?

the point for those not too stupid to grasp it like the insufferable MAPS is that Bernard Gadd was and is far and away the greatest poet this country has ever produced - head and shoulders above Baxter, Sam Hunt, and that retard Smithyman

Bernard Gadd is one of the four or five greates poets in English of the twenieth century - of almost any century

so why don't cowards and dickwads like Maps and Richard Taylor talk about THAT?

just acknowledge Gadd's genius, then SHUT DA FUCK UP!

You fucking cunts.

1:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I came here from the website of Tim Jones. You lot are a disgrace. Everyone criticising Bernard Gadd is a disgrace. He only died two months ago! You should save your criticism for the living. I hope that measures are taken to prevent you making more cowardly attacks.

Mick Devlin

3:27 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity, why didn't this debate happen when both parties were actually alive and able to respond?

6:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An excellent post. I know very little about NZ history and nothing about the Maori taking steps toward independent development. So thanks for helping enlighten me.

As to the anonymoids issuing threats from the safety of their keyboards, so what if the man was a great poet? Doesn't mean he knows a thing about history.

4:20 am  
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