A NZ Maori academic has angered New Zealanders for comparing the colonialisation of NZ to the Maori holocaust in the wake of Waitangi Day. The question is whether the comparison is legitimate - or whether these comments were an effort to extract sympathy concessions from the colonisers.
In some respects you can say that the colonisation of NZ was analogous to the Jewish Holocaust. Consider that a very large proportion of the Maori population died with the introduction of European diseases; there were also battles with the army and skirmishes with settlers which were also going to take a toll on their population as they fought the European colonisers.
But there are some important differences as well. For instance,
1. The Maori did not develop their intellect sufficiently (largely because of their collectivist roots, lack of protracted struggle and small population) such that they confronted resilient, sophisticated enemies nor develop an enlightened theory of values, i.e. A framework for the development of personal rights. They would hence remain collectivist and some defiantly so.
2. The Maori had some element of empowerment in the sense that they were able to launch warfare themselves. The NZ Crown was responsible for Maoris, so as custodians they did tend to take steps to protect them, even if those efforts were under-resources, too little, too late, and subject to rationalisation.
I am inclined to say that there are no descendants able to complain about European colonisation; but this does not end the story. Maoris are today living in a certain context which was the result of NZ occupation. I would however be more worried about the context in which they are living today, not the injustices of centuries past. Why? Well, irrespective of whether they were treated well or not, in many respects they were treated better than the Pakeha (NZ colonialists). The reason is that NZ colonialists had to confront Maori attacks. They had greater resources at their disposal, but they had in some respects been subjected to the interests of the government more than the Maori. Maoris were eventually given land, and their grievances carry more weight today than 'British subjects' because there is some recognition of the plight of Maori....but there is no recognition that Pakeha are suffering; and that is because Westerners are more inclined to repress their subjugation. i.e. Pakeha are economic slaves to the government; forced to provide welfare support to Maoris; not because we like being slaves, but because we are forced to contribute to a form of government which does not solve the problem.
We might ask what was the nature of Pakeha subjugation to the British government; now subordinated to the NZ parliament. Well, its nature is that Pakeha are assumed to have certain rights as citizens; but this is 'conveniently' not a comprehensive or effective range of rights, such that they are actually slaves working for the sake of political middlemen; largely while many Maori live on benefits. We are not accustomed to treating benefits/welfare support as 'suffering' - more as 'support', but this is not entirely accurate because it is akin to child abuse to pander to Maori indulgence, and this is what the Pakeha have done to appease the political influence of modern-day Christian liberals as well as concrete-bound Maori who don't look beyond their short term expenses and consider their long-range self-esteem. There is no doubt that Maoris need support, but it has to be conditional upon certain objective standards. If its not; then the current issues of child poverty, high unemployment, high illiteracy and the current 'guilt industry' are destined to polarise NZ'ers into racial divisions.
Maoris are deserving of empathy; but Maori (in their sustained suffering as a result of poor Pakeha public policy) should not forget that Pakeha are deserving of empathy as well. This might not be easy when you are a sufferer, but its a prerequisite as a believer in justice. We have to rise above our concrete context, and think as intellectuals. Sadly, that message is lost upon both Pakeha and Maori. Its not about whose suffering was worse: its about how to expunge what still remains; a dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs. Let's not turn this into a race issue; but focus instead on the question of delivering our expectations to government. The consternation of Maori ought to be shared by Pakeha and vice versa. Their common enemy is the government which:
1. Denies everyone personal sovereignty - whether Maori or British 'subjects'
2. Specifically a lack of economic rights - the govt right to tax needs to be at the people's discretion otherwise there is no prospect of accountability
3. This discretion need not be a financial discretion - but plausibly an intellectual discretion
4. The basis of our political discourse needs to be rational - not majoritism or 'numbers' based extortion of political influence.
When Maori and Pakeha jointly grasp that possibility; only then will they realise that representative democracy is not serving them; and that only a meritocratic democracy will. A meritocratic democracy is not a aristocracy; its a forum for rational discourse. It is a forum which affirms the interests of the rational; whether they are one person or 1 million; whether they are NZ or foreign citizens. Any other framework is a basis for abuse. If the option existed in the 18th century, it might have prevented the settlement of NZ. Its hard to say; as ultimately this political system had to develop. But unlike the contemporary system, a meritocracy will advance people's thinking, and not result in the systematic 'dumbing down' of voters we see today. More is said on this issue of course in politics blog.