Was Jamie Whyte right to compare the legal inequality of Maori today with the aristocrats of pre-Revolutionary France? Probably not. The more accurate analogy might be to compare the tribal leaders and their hangers-on to those aristocrats, busily eating cake while those they supposedly represent are getting their crumbs, if at all.
An even more accurate analogy might be to compare this Browntable of today with the nineteenth-century version of the British House of Lords – an unelected body with entry based solely on hereditary privilege having veto power over the parliament of the lower chamber. This fairly describes the position in law the Browntable have in many councils – Auckland’s Maori Statutory Board the most prominent example. It fairly describes the position in law tribal leaders have over infrastructure and property development – the Resource Management Act giving them veto power over so much of what would otherwise happen, and Auckland’s new Unitary Plan giving them (slowly but surely) veto power over virtually every new project in the city. And it fairly describes the ongoing process embarked upon by tribal leaders to place their version of the Treaty as some kid of superior law above all other laws, with them as the Treaty’s sole interpreters.
Liberty Scott makes an excellent strategic point on Jamie Whyte’s ‘one law for all’ speech. “Jamie Whyte's "one law for all" speech was disappointing,” he says. “Not because of what his end goals are (which are largely ignored by his critics because he gave them so much else to aim at), but because the rhetoric was clumsy and in my view, counter-productive.”
Jamie Whyte's [point] … got hidden under what I think was a major strategic error for those of us who want to move on from racial determinism and neo-Marxist structuralist interpretations of power, capitalism and society. The mistake many have jumped on is misconstruing a detail of educational quotas (which is not where the debate should lie) and the pre-revolutionary France comparison (which was historically wrong); but I think his two biggest mistakes were:
- To not focus on how the current system privileges a few Maori over everyone else (including other Maori);
- To not sell the optimistic case for individual empowerment and diversity.
“Such an agenda would have got some traction,” he says, perhaps even
broader support than the kneejerk vote that his speech was presumably designed to generate. Strategically, it may also have gained Maori support, which is quite frankly, important if any of this is to get off the ground.
Scott argues that Whyte's approach however marginalised him, and made Hone look like the representative of his people instead of the marginal loon he truly is.
For when you look at political representation, it isn't the pro-violence racism of Hone Harawira (or indeed the Greens) that gets predominant Maori support, it is more moderate views. It is about time that those of us who believe in individual freedom spoke to them more, and took on the venomous rhetoric thrown our way by the likes of Harawira, Sykes and their fellow rabble rousers. Unfortunately, I think Jamie Whyte's speech. as well intentioned as it was, was poorly aimed, and a wasted opportunity.
Read his whole piece, and see if you agree with him.