Saturday, June 20, 2009

Nelson Mail editorial response

This editorial in the Nelson Mail last night is thought provoking.

Firstly the praise:

"OPINION: Though some political parties have lately demonstrated surprising fluidity in terms of their core values, the same cannot be said of the Maori Party.

It lives by its slogan, "What is the most important thing? It is people, it is people, it is people" and inherent in that is the understanding that there are benefits for the entire country if the position of Maori is raised.

The party, and in particular its co-leader, Pita Sharples, have surprised many early doubters with their positive and earnest contribution to the political scene.

The mana-enhancing agreement with the National Government gives party MPs the opportunity to contribute at the highest level to the running of the country.

Dr Sharples raises some valid points in his latest speech, in which he calls for universities to consider preferential, open entry for Maori students.

His claim that Maori educational under-achievement is a legacy of "colonisation and successive governments' education policies over the past century" will ruffle feathers, as will the suggestion that the "dice are loaded against Maori, right through the school system".

However, the performance gap between Maori and other students is real, whatever its causes.
Dr Sharples points out that in 2007, just 63 per cent of young Maori males and 67 per cent of Maori females left school with at least NCEA level one. The rate for Pakeha was 20 and 22 per cent higher respectively.

Though this represents a troubling loss of potential at an individual level, it also contributes to low national productivity.

It is in the wider community's interest that the gap be closed and, while previous government policies have attempted this, clearly more needs to be done.”

So that is a nice summary of the good. Praise for the maori party and how they have performed and some compliments for Pita Sharples regarding the issue he has raised. The counter argument against the solution presented by Pita Sharples, is then given.

“However, Dr Sharples' solution is not the way to achieve this. If anything, encouraging Maori students who have under-achieved in secondary school to continue on to university might well be counter-productive.

To admit immature students who have not mastered the educational basics at secondary level on to higher learning would merely set them up to fall from greater heights.

Opening the doors does not necessarily mean young Maori will pour through them, and it is what goes on within the hallowed halls that matters most.

Open entry for most university courses is available from age 20. Dr Sharples would do better to push for a greater range of transition programmes aimed at helping to prepare students, of any ethnicity, for eventual mainstream university courses.

However, his and the Government's main thrust ought to focus on change at a far more basic level.

As Prime Minister John Key points out, the emphasis ought to be on raising standards of literacy and numeracy, rather than opening the doors to ill-prepared students, simply on the grounds of ethnicity."

So far so good. A well reasoned different opinion about the solutions. All very cordial and nice. But things are about to change.

"To continually blame "colonisation" for all Maori ills is an over-simplification that does the Maori Party no credit."

Not too bad the maori party getting told off.

"However, there is in some New Zealand families, regardless of ethnicity, a generational bias against "the system" which sees achievement mocked and attempts to better oneself knocked back, or at least not supported."

Okaaaay, maybe. Ethnicity is no the issue it appears that class is.

"More could be done to highlight potential career paths other than in sport or hip-hop, and to present tertiary education as viable and desirable."

The use of hip-hop now lets some light in. Who likes hip-hop? Darkies – that's who.

"More could be done to change the culture of negativity and envy, wherever it occurs. More could be done to grow tall poppies rather than continually smashing them down."

Culture of negativity? Culture of envy? Continually smashing tall poppies down? Pretty strong language and while the disclaimer, “ wherever it occurs” is put in, the meaning is pretty clear.

Stop moaning about colonisation maoris. Stop being negative and stop looking at envy on the rest of New Zealand and stop wanting everything. Stop acting like you are special and stop holding this country back by trying to get long forgotten crimes, committed by long dead people, corrected. Just get with the program, we are all kiwis and we all have the same rights, no one should get special rights. The problem with maori is that they are too focused in the grievance mode. You still see yourselves as victims. Poor maori see how worse off than everyone else you are, boo hoo, tough, get off your arse and stop moaning.

As you can tell I've heard a lot of those comments over the years. They are all based on falsehoods.

Maori are continually coming up with ideas and solutions to the situation they are in. This idea from Pita Sharples is an example of that. His solution is a maori solution. I am sure he set out to cause a bit of a splash with the initial headline. And maybe he underestimated the virulent outcry that created so much noise that any further clarification from Sharples was unheard and then interpreted as a backdown.

I'm putting the mistake down to the fact that Pita Sharples has a good heart and he believes others are like him. He thought it might actually be thought about as a maori solution to a maori problem. He thought that the mana of maori as tangata whenua and the indigenous people of this country counted for something. Perhaps being close to the action has clouded his view of the real situation in this country, I don't think so. To me it was just a miscalculation in his perception of how he would like it to be, as opposed to how it is.

So what was the mistake? The public are suffering from a number of misconceptions about maori. It brings to mind a book called “Positioning” which I read many years ago. The concept relates to the perception people have in their minds about things. It's called memes now when considering populations.

The comments outlined above exist because of the positioning or paradigm that people have around maori. You can't bully it out the way, it is there and won't move or change.

The idea is that if you, in a marketing sense, are number two and you want to be number one. Instead of fighting on the same battlefield as the current number one, you change the battlefield. And on this new battlefield you are number one. It's the same for what people believe. You have to change the meme, you have to change the position, you have to change the paradigm.

The classic marketing example is rental cars, with Hertz and Avis. When people thought rental cars, they thought Hertz first and then Avis. Avis couldn't beat Hertz on that battlefield, so they changed it to a different battlefield where they were number one.

It is the same with the public misconceptions about maori. Those thoughts show a glimpse of the meme in play and also parts of the paradigm or worldview that people have, that cause them to think the way they do.

We have to change the battlefield and I believe it is already happening. The centre of balance is shifting and that is visible in the reaction we see from the public to the stimulus supplied from maori. It could be a natural process, maybe it will happen no matter what. The perceptions that people have about maori are being tested. Maori are building their mana and that mana is being expressed in all sorts of ways, the resurgence of maoritanga evidenced in so many glorious examples is testament to the beginning of a dawn to a new day. Ideas such as those offered by the maori party are another example of the inherent mana of maori being expressed.

Maori are offering solutions to the isssues they face. We just have to listen.

Perhaps I have misinterpreted the intent of the editorial. I may have just dreamed it all up and created a mountain out of a molehill, it wouldn't be the first time that has happened. But i think I'll trust my intuition on this.

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