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August 5, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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The Pakeha Blues

With 50,000 likes in just three days, The Pakeha Party sure knows how to stir the pot. Their anti-special-privileges-for-Māori stance has ignited some fierce debate, with players on both sides participating in some not-so-constructive arguments.  But the main theme of it all seems to centre around some serious resentment toward Māori. Why? My guess is that it all comes down to one simple thing: guilt.

“Woah woah woah,” you say. “Guilt? Just wait a minute—who are you to—who do you think you—excuuuse me?” By ‘guilt’, I mean that same kind of feeling that you get when someone reminds you that your new iPhone could have cured 700 people of blindness in the Third World. It’s not necessarily your fault, and you can’t change the situation that led to that guilt, but you can help. By recognising that you were dealt a privileged hand in life, you can contribute to making things a little bit better. By no means am I comparing Māori to those in the Third World; what I am saying is that most of those who hold resentment toward Māori know that there is more to the story, but choose not to learn about it.

That to me is the saddest thing—not the page itself, or even the hateful comments scattered everywhere, not even the missing macrons in Pākehā. The thing that niggles me the most is the blatant neglect of such an awesome opportunity: REAL DEBATE, the kind of discussion that provokes thought and maybe the odd epiphany or two. I have yet to see any thoughtful arguments that discuss more than just historical and current situations, arguments that discuss solutions. Instead, the majority of The Pakeha Party’s posts and subsequent comments appear to be a massive whinge-fest: “Whinge whinge… Māori get special privileges… whinge… uneducated comment… whinge”. I don’t intend to come across as elitist when I say that people who haven’t ever given a second look at a decent account of Aotearoa’s history submit most of those posts.

But if ignorance is bliss, why are so many people angry?

I think it’s important to note here that people’s experiences are valid, and statistics and political theory only stand up so much in day-to-day life. Witnessing unfairness and injustice peeves us all off, even if we know that Suzy gets to eat her yoghurt during class because she’s kind-of sick or something. But of course, we don’t want to know that she’s sick—that would make us horrible people when we secretly hate her. And that would make us feel guilty.

I think the anger all starts with this idea that ‘special privileges’ for Māori mean that we must be missing out on something. As the mission statement for The Pakeha Party says, “Any additional benefits the Maori ask for exclusively for Maori—we ask for the same things for Pakeha!” So let’s have a think about this… have Pākehā been underrepresented in our Parliament since its inception? Is this also the case in their participation and achievement in our education and tertiary system? Do they overwhelmingly and disproportionately lie in most negative statistics? Because I’m sure most Māori would gladly give Pākehā that burden. But then come the true capitalist debates: we are all born as equals, we can all achieve should we just work hard, and everyone has equal opportunities. Now if that were the case, these special privileges would be very unfair—no doubt about it. But what if this was untrue? What if basic statistics and a quick look at Māori post-colonial development proved this wrong? What if acknowledging this would make us feel like bad people when we hate on that imaginary person who pretty much got to go to uni for free because they were brown? Hell no, that would evoke a smidgen of guilt. Which isn’t really fair because you didn’t do anything wrong, did you?

I do however think that there is a point at which a bit of empathy and understanding dissolves this anger and guilt. Where your inner peace reflects outwardly to contribute to a slightly more peaceful New Zealand. Because resentment and anger isn’t fun, nor is it beneficial to either group involved. What is beneficial is a politically literate nation that focusses more on positive outcomes rather than negative situations. If you think that special treatment isn’t the way, what is? That’s the kind of debate we need.

So why not be a bit critical the next time you watch Police Ten 7, and consider the things that have happened to that individual’s family over the last 200 years? Perhaps google a little bit about Parihaka before you start claiming that Māori gave their land away for muskets and blankets?

If you don’t do it out of a desire to help make Aotearoa a slightly more peaceful place, at least do it for the purpose of feeling a little bit less angry and guilty inside (I’ve heard that that stuff causes pimples and warts and other ugly afflictions).

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