The mantle of Victimhood – A Maori Problem? Or a Pakeha Fallacy?

If someone asked me to raise a hand for every instance in my life to which I have played the victim card;  I would hope to morph into the multi limbed Hindu Deity – Ganesha, who boasts anywhere from  two – sixteen arms. Only then could I truly hope to accurately represent the number of times to date that I have wollowed in my own sorrows and felt like the world was against me; like I was the victim of a cold, cruel hearted world that wanted to confine me to a bleak, pointless existence.

I must start by placing context to what I am discussing. Victims of serious or violent crime may obviously find it hard to frame their horrific experiences in a positive manner. The purpose of this article is not to attack victims of any sort in any way. This article is looking to analyse Maori and Non-Maori attitudes at a focal level within the realms of the Maori/Crown relationship within Aotearoa New Zealand.

Most Maori probably dont want to be seen as a culture that plays the blame game on their fellow European countrymen. Tariana Turia put it most famously when she attributed specific Maori social issues to her famous ‘post-colonial traumatic stress disorder’. The mainstream New Zealand media was exceedingly quick to provide an overwhelmingly spirited and often personal rebuttal of Tariana Turia’s views as to why Maoridom existed in a state of poor socio-economic standing. Many years later, then Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples suggested that Maori were being unfairly treated by the police and that the police, courts and corrections “systematically discriminate against Maori’. Once again the Mainstream media jumped on the bandwagon, with the general consensus that Maori are once again using excuses to provide some type of constructive reasoning for the committment of crime. It was also common consensus that Maori, who were arrested at three times the rate of non-Maori, were experiencing this increased interaction with the police because; you guessed it, they committed crime at a higher rate than those from other ethnic groups.

To the Pakeha side; the suposedly oppressed majority in a country where they see inequality abound and call for one rule of law for all. Pakeha dont have their own rugby team, they definitely dont have a specificially determined set of white only electorates for promoting white rights and grievances. They call for equality for all based on a set of rules that cater for the entire population rather than a subset. They call for an end to race based representation at any level, be it local health boards, city councils or any form of representation that is race specific. It is not the fault of the Pakeha that many Maori live below the breadline and are over represented in almost every negative health and social statistic that is available and measureable. How can it be?

All Pakeha want is Equality! But what is equality? Equality seems like such a simple concept. An ideology that makes perfect sense and boasts a society of fair and equal treatment for all its constituents.

But, we cannot confuse “equal” with “equality”. If you place two people side by side and one is really tall and the other short, and ask them to both get something from a high shelf, obviously the shorter one will need a footstool to reach, where the taller person won’t. In order for equality to happen, all factors must be equal to begin with – which they obviously arent. It is a game of catch up – a game that needs to be played for as long as it takes. This premise is not to render Maori incapable or to provide excuses for the state they have found themselves in, but to show, the myth of equality in this country is nothing but an idealistic social state that European New Zealanders have convinced themselves that this country is in need of.

I do believe Pakeha could benefit from asking themselves a few hard questions. The first question being this; When have I ever experienced true and bona-fide racism during my life to date? That is, when have I been in a situation that I have felt truly discriminated against because of the colour of my skin or European origins. I would put all of my money on the fact that most Maori would have 10 examples of real and true racism for every European individuals one.

Are Maori or Pakeha victims in some way or another within the current political context? Maybe. Does the victim mentality within the context of race relations ensure that ensure we move backward as a country as opposed to forwards. Definitely.  Am I trying to take away from the fact that Victims experience hardship, suffering and intolerance – No way.

It seems that European populations throughout the commonwealth wish to assume the mantle of victimhood when any endeavours are introduced to encourage equality or when resource based funding is offered to indigenous minorities. A level playing field such as the one that many non-Maori suggest, would more than likely do nothing except further increase the enormous social disparities that already exist. Many Maori most probably lack the confidence needed to interact with a system that has failed them on so many levels. While many Pakeha probably cant bring themselves to understand why.

It is fair to suggest that many Pakeha are happy to acknowledge the Maori culture in a selective capacity – the All Blacks Haka, Hangis and a few NZ made Maori movies here and there. Unfortunately the Maori culture is so much more than that. Maybe Maori would be lifted in spirits if they were to see non-Maori on mass providing their input as to constructive way forward for the Maori people. But why would they? They are not Maori, and Maori are the ones with all the Treaty Claim money right!?

Maori look to the past to explain and the present, and to prepare for the future. Pro active solutions to ongoing problems ensure that issues facing Maori are solved at a front line level.  This requires damning commitment from political institutions and a renewed vigilance from all sectors of society to commit to solid, measureable action plans that see an improvement in Maori welfare and wellbeing.

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