Wednesday, December 22, 2010

reclaiming us

A brilliant analysis of how colonisation has instituted alien concepts of patriarchy and heirarchy into maori society and distorted ideas of mana and whakapapa especially for maori men by Ani Mikaere presented at the 27th Annual Conference of the Law and Society Association of Australia and New Zealand, Victoria University of Wellington, 10 December 2010. Full presentation here.

Some important paragraphs which convey the message of truth.

It is important, particularly in the context of a discussion of leadership, to note that the presence of balance necessarily negates the concept of dominance and its corollary, subservience.  The principle of hierarchy has no place in a conception of reality that asserts the interconnectedness of all living things and that requires the perpetual nurturing of relationships to ensure the maintenance of equilibrium.
Early colonists in Aotearoa needed a strategy for dealing with an indigenous population to whom the concept of hierarchy was completely foreign... The solution lay in giving a significant proportion of the target population (in this case, Māori) a stake in the hierarchy.  What better way to convince a group of people to buy into a system of rank than by reassuring them that their rightful place in the pecking order was higher than that of another group? What more effective divide and rule tactic than convincing half of the Māori population that they were inherently superior to the other half?
In Aotearoa, the means utilized to institute patriarchy can be divided into two main categories.  The first comprised actions that consistently privileged Māori men over Māori women.  The second involved the reinterpretation of Māori philosophy so as to erase all memory of its true nature and to convince Māori that patriarchy and hierarchy had always been entrenched in our beliefs about the nature of reality.
In the context of this conference, however, a more important question might be what each of you can do to contribute to resolving the crisis that we currently face. The first thing you must do, wherever you find yourself placed in the white male hierarchy that infects the colonial state of New Zealand, is to acknowledge your privilege.  If you choose to enjoy the benefits of that privilege without acknowledging it, and without actively challenging a system that relegates Māori to a lesser status or that reserves to itself the right to redefine Māori philosophies at whim, you are complicit in the continued subordination of Māori in our own land.
Specifically, you should seize any opportunity to challenge the expectation that Māori ought to speak with one voice.  You should regard with suspicion versions of our philosophical framework that conveniently characterise us as inherently patriarchal or that saddle us with Western notions of hierarchy.
That is very good advice for all of us and the value of the presentation is that the alien concepts are identified and shown to be imposed and then solutions are offered. We cannot fix things without all of these steps.

Hat tip - Te Whaainga Wahine

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