Friday, 4 November 2016

Some questions for Efeso Collins


New councillor Efeso Collins has managed to hog the news for two days now with his story that an usher refusing his family admission to VIP seating at his swearing in must be, has to be, “racial discrimination.”

He has “no doubt as to what happened to his Samoan relatives,” he says.

The fact that we don't look 'normal', and that's the problem - too many people offering the suggestion, which is essentially racially discriminatory, that brown people don't belong there … disgusted when he learned later of the episode …  break down racial preconceptions … cultural competency programmes …  I don't think we've got the diversity right … strikingly Anglo-Saxon tone of the inauguration ceremonies …  the materialisation of deeply-held historical ideas … diversity … systemic racism … oppression … blah, blah, blah.

For a fellow so systemically discriminated against, he’s managed to get an awful lot of media sunlight in a very short short time, and a whole torrent of social-justice warriorisms into print.

It’s almost like he’s a canny operator rather than the political naif he seems.

Mr Collins has been taken by the media at face value, as one downtrodden member of a poor, oppressed minority simply struggling for a place in the sun, “where every day we're confronted with this type of thinking.”  I looked in vain through all the recent reports however to find if the media had reported at all that he’s been a political operator since before some of his voters were born, and with his doctorate in something called “Indigenous Studies” has been receiving a nice well-paid crust as something called a “Pasifika advisor” for any Trust, Ministry, school or board that will have him. Hardly a man facing “systemic oppression.”

There are several questions a decent reporter may like to ask this poor downtrodden fellow. These are just a few:

    • Were you a victim of “systemic racism” when you were employed by the ASB Community Trust as a Pasifika Project Advisor, the Ministry of Education as a Pasifika Education Advisor, or  the Ministry of Social Development as a Pasifika Youth Development Manager?
    • Were you oppressed by the students of the University of Auckland when they elected you Auckland University Student Association (AUSA) president?
    • Did you claim over $5,000 for taxi costs for getting home in the year you were president? Were you driving a taxi in those days?
    • Were you paid, and was this oppressive of you, or of the students who were forced to pay for membership of the AUSA?
    • Why did you spend much of your time and your authority as president trying to roll Craccum editors, other chairs and so forth who opposed you in the vote that year for Voluntary Student Membership (VSM)?

Amusingly, it may also be worth noting that despite his skullduggery in the vote Mr Collins was the president who lost the VSM election that turned the Auckland campus voluntary (his own “Brexit,” against which he had vigorously if not underhandedly campaigned) -- “the biggest casualty of voluntary student membership,” he bemoaned on the day of his loss, is “the sudden end to the strong student voice which AUSA provided on a local and national basis.” In other words, of the ability for him to have his point of view funded involuntarily by students who frequently opposed it.

In other words then, Mr Collins is not the simple, smiling, downtrodden fellow the media has taken him to be. He’s an operator – and this is how he operates. For him and folk like him (think Willie Jackson et al), crying “racism” is not a testimony of events but a means of career advancement.

In a world of identity politics it’s not unusual to see someone trading on the colour of their skin instead of the content of their character. But aren’t there any reporters anymore who dig deeper?


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