Thursday, December 13, 2012

Rata speaks out - but is anyone listening?

Dr Elizabeth Rata of Auckland University is one of very few Maori with the courage to speak out against the pernicious consequences of what she calls Treaty-based biculturalism. (Another brave and lonely voice is that of Tata Parata, whose letters often appear in The Dominion Post.) In this piece in today's New Zealand Herald,  Dr Rata persuasively explains why so many New Zealanders, including Maori, are alarmed at the "profoundly undemocratic nature of political arrangements proposed by Treaty activists within all levels of government". It's an article everyone should read, but I suspect that the politicians who most need to heed its powerful message have their hands clapped firmly over their eyes.

18 comments:

Vaughan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vaughan said...

We have a spare speaker over here in Australia. Admittedly he is not cheap but all agreed he was an excellent chairman in Parliament.

So we offer him to you.

In the spirit of Anzac cooperation, I think NZ should accept.

We can also provide a few other politicians too if you are short a blowhard or two.

Jigsaw said...

I was delighted to see that Elizabeth Rata's article was in the NZ Herald-at last a voice of reason and doubly delighted that the Herald printed it. I admire her bravery immensely. I did notice however that there is no comments section with the NZ Herald on line.
As I explained to an ex-pat New Zealander newly returned and astounded at what has happened in this area in his absence - it's something that New Zealanders have learned not to discuss in public-sad isn't it.

Peter said...

What evidence do you have the Rata is Maori? She has always refused to confirm or deny the fact. It is a matter of fact that the name "Rata" is a married name.

Karl du Fresne said...

Peter
Having met Elizabeth Rata, I can say only that she looks a helluva lot more Maori than many of the Treaty activists.

Peter said...

Karl, I too have met Elizabeth Rata. I have sat at a dinner table with her for three hours. My wife is a colleague of hers. I did not ask you whether she looks Maori much less " a helluva lot more Maori than many of the Treaty activists" - a very odd thing to say indeed. I asked you: What evidence do you have that she IS Maori. (Remember: you described her as "one of very few Maori with the courage to speak out against the pernicious consequences of what she calls Treaty-based biculturalism". You may find it helpful to know that she was married to Matiu Rata's brother. I await your reply with interest. And please try and stick to the point..

Peter said...

Karl? Are you there?

Karl du Fresne said...

Yes, I am here. Oddly enough I don't sit poised at my computer 24/7, ready to respond instantly to every comment. What's more, I don't see why I should give you the time of day while you take the gutless option of remaining anonymous. Tell me who you are and I might decide you're worth engaging with.

Peter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter Calder said...

Oops. sorry Karl. Did not realise that my name was not there. Carelessness, not deliberation. Have never posted anonymously. My name is Peter Calder. I am an Auckland journo and I know better that to assume someone's ethnicity from their name. So should you. Greg Rusedski is a Canadian-born tennis player who plays for England. You get the idea. And Elizabeth Rata is a ...?
I am interested, though, to note that your enthusiastic supporters Jigsaw and Vaughan have not been labelled gutless but luxuriate in collegial anonymity. You are obviously familiar with the old Broadway saying"if you ain't praising them, they ain't listening". On ya, mate.

Karl du Fresne said...

Thanks for confirming what I already suspected. You'd be the same Peter Calder Of the New Zealand Herald who recently offered to buy a beer for two other right-thinking journalists (for want of a better description) who attacked me on another online forum for defending free speech. Interesting.

You say you didn't realise your identity wasn't disclosed, but you must have known, because when you looked at the comments thread you would have seen that you came up as "Peter". You could have said, as others sometimes do, "Peter Calder from the Herald here" (or words to that effect). I can only conclude you preferred to remain anonymous, for whatever reason.

You chide me for not insisting that other commenters disclose their identity, but I'm sure most people (you too, I suspect, though you may not admit it) are capable of seeing a distinct difference between someone posting a general comment, as people like Jigsaw and my whimsical friend Vaughan mostly do, and someone directly and personally engaging me in debate. In such cases I consider I'm entitled to know who's taking a poke at me. After all, you know who I am.

Now, to get to your substantive point. I spent two days with Elizabeth Rata at a symposium several years ago and never doubted she was part-Maori. I may be wrong, but I doubt it. We have no way of knowing for sure because as you point out, Dr Rata herself has always refused to disclose anything about her whakapapa, for the understandable reason that if she did so, she would be buying in to the very biculturalism shtick that she condemns. By not doing so she asks that people concentrate on the logic and force of her arguments rather than examining her cultural legitimacy. That's a principled stand and I admire her for it.

Ultimately, whether or not she has Maori blood is incidental. I mentioned it because I believe she is courageous. That's true regardless of her ancestry (it takes a brave academic to defy close-minded, left-wing orthodoxy in the universities), but it's even more noteworthy if she's also breaking ranks with the Maori elite. She does this at her peril, as was evident when she was the subject of a vicious attack by the head of the Maori Language Commission several years ago.

Unfortunately we're now conditioned to divide commentators on Maori issues into two groups: those whose claims to Maori ancestry, however tenuous, are perceived as entitling them to be viewed as unimpeachable authorities; and the rest of us, who can conveniently be dismissed as racists and should all be silenced.

Finally, I'm intrigued by your air of matey familiarity ("On yer, mate"). I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but somehow I don't think this is genuine.

Peter Calder said...

Karl, your inability to stick to the point verges on attenton deficit disorder.
Re: all your stuff about my online identity. I say it was a mistake. Perhaps you think I am a liar, but I am not. I have never posted or written anonymously anywhere. You flatter yourself that I would hide behind a shield of anonymity to engage with you.
I did not notice I was "Peter" on this thread. I suspect I was writing my name in my profile when the phone rang. I have rectified it.
Re: I spent two days with Elizabeth Rata at a symposium several years ago and never doubted she was part-Maori. I may be wrong.
You are wrong.
Re: She has always refused to disclose anything about her whakapapa [I think you mean background, ancestry or ethnicity; whakapapa is the wrong wordd here. Just saying], for the understandable reason that if she did so, she would be buying in to the very biculturalism shtick that she condemns.
There are other possible interpretations. One that suggests itself to me is that it allows, for example, sloppy right-wing bloggers to say "she is a courageous Maori" and "here is a voice of Maori moderation and good sense." Her silence also allows her view to be read as Maori views. You characterised them as such, for heaven's sake. It was your first point.
My initial post was very simple: what evidence do you have that she is Maori? The answer to that is "none". I wish you would just say so and fess up to an simple sloppy error a cadet would be castigated for. (And if "whether she has Maori blood is incidental", why did you choose to lead with it?) Instead, you keep shifting the ground and turn it into an attack on me. Your final position is "I never doubted she was Maori". Well, Karl, there are a lot of things I never doubted until I found out that I was wrong about them. I am sorry you do not feel the same way, because that's the way humans found out stuff like that the earth wasn't flat.
Re: I don't think this is genuine. You are right about that.
Re: buying a beer for your detractors. You can tell a man by the company he keeps, I guess.
Now, I think you should amend your initial blog to reflect the fact that you think she is Maori but you have no evidence for it. You don't have to take my word for it that she is not. Prove that she is, or amend the copy. That's what journalists do.
Of course, i am powerless to stop you writing your weayingly predictable, shallow reactionary drivel. And I am certainly not going to waste my time engaging with it.
I challenged you on a single point of fact. Put up, or correct it.

Karl du Fresne said...

Let me get this straight.
You resent being called a liar and say you’re not one, yet you admit you were dishonest in respect of your affected familiarity with me. So how we do know which of your statements, if any, can be taken as dependable?
You expect me to say I’m “wrong” about Elizabeth Rata’s ethnicity, yet you acknowledge that neither of us knows whether she’s Maori, Pakeha or something in between. How does that work? I’ve already said I may be wrong; I can do no more than that. (And don’t try to demonstrate your superior cultural sensitivity by nitpicking about “whakapapa”; I know exactly what the word means.)
You accuse me of attacking you, but hang on a minute – you’re the one using ad hominem arguments (“attention deficit disorder”; “sloppy right-wing bloggers”; “shallow reactionary drivel”). Please keep going – you’re revealing a lot about yourself, and it’s not flattering. To anyone reading this thread, some of the bilious Herald on Sunday editorials you’ve anonymously written will suddenly be explained.
You ask me to “fess up” to an error (though you still haven’t established that I made one – who’s the one playing fast and loose here?). Allow me to return the request by asking you to admit that what’s really got you hot and bothered is that Dr Rata had the temerity to attack the wearyingly predictable (to use your phrase) orthodoxy of the left, which you represent; and what’s probably even worse, from your point of view, is that she did it in the very same paper that employs you. It must be really galling that someone at the New Zealand Herald understands the need for editorial balance; after all, we know what your views are about freedom of expression – namely, that it should be denied to people who don’t agree with you.
However I must thank you for kindly giving me advice on how to be a journalist. I’ve been floundering in this game for 45 years and only wish you'd come forward sooner and pointed out where I was going wrong.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going away for a few days to spend some time with my family – a far more edifying use of my time than this. Feel free to continue fulminating here in my absence, but don’t expect anyone to listen.



Peter Calder said...

What evidence do you have that Elizabeth Rata is Maori?

Karl du Fresne said...

Are you still here? Dear me. This is starting to resemble Jorge Luis Borges’ description of the Falklands War: two bald men fighting over a comb. But I’ll tell you what: I’ll admit (again) that I can’t confirm Elizabeth Rata is Maori, just as I’ve no doubt you can’t confirm that the many pale-skinned people with European surnames who are unquestioningly accepted by the media as Maori activists and legitimate Treaty claimants are genuine tangata whenua. (Does that bother you, or do your concerns run only the other way, as I suspect?) In return, I’d like you to admit that your objection to my description of Dr Rata as Maori (which ultimately is incidental to her argument, as I’m sure you realise; I highlighted it merely as a point of interest, as we journalists do) is just a smokescreen, and that what really offends you is the fact she was given a platform at all. You made it clear, by your recent support in another forum for two noxious fleas who argued that people such as Garth McVicar, Lindsay Mitchell and David Round should be ignored by the media, that you think any opinions that don’t conform to your own left-wing world view should be suppressed, although how you reconcile that with your position as a senior journalist employed by a mainstream newspaper is a bit of a mystery. So why don’t you just give up the contrived indignation and declare honestly that you think people like Dr Rata should be silenced?

Peter Calder said...

Re: I’ll admit (again) that I can’t confirm Elizabeth Rata is Maori.
There; that wasn't so hard, was it?

Karl du Fresne said...

If any readers of this blog have persevered this far, which I doubt, I'll leave it to them to form their own conclusions about your resounding silence on the points I raise.

Karl du Fresne said...

Peter? Are you there?