Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Mistress Tova's latest discipline session

Sigh. Another day, another discipline session for the National Party caucus from Newshub’s resident dominatrix, Mistress Tova, and her understudy Jenna Lynch.

Last night’s round of punishment took up six minutes of the 6pm bulletin and started with Lynch rapturously reporting that Paul Goldsmith had been thrown to the wolves - my words, not hers, although that was the tone - by his caucus colleagues over his comment that Maori, “on balance”, had benefited from colonisation.

A procession of National MPs, all looking like frightened rabbits, eagerly dissociated themselves from Goldsmith before running for the hills. But not before Lynch had given us the benefit of her own view that colonisation was “brutal” – and as if to substantiate it, wheeled out Professor Margaret Mutu (now there’s a dispassionate judge for you), who equated colonisation with murder, theft, rape and pillage. That was followed by a parade of Labour MPs poking scorn at Goldsmith (who would have thought?), followed by a puerile jibe from Debbie Ngarewa-Packer of the Maori Party.

Then it was back to Lynch, who reminded us that Maori continue to experience poor outcomes in health, housing, justice and education. We were invited to conclude, therefore, that Goldsmith’s comment was clearly that of an unreconstructed racist – and an ignorant one at that, although Goldsmith has an MA in history.

Not content to leave it there, Lynch then seized yet another opportunity to bring up Goldsmith’s unwitting involvement in the media feeding frenzy that erupted last year when the then National deputy leader Nikki Kaye, in a pathetic attempt to fend off media accusations that the party caucus was insufficiently diverse, blurted out that the palpably Pakeha Goldsmith was of Ngati Porou descent.

The point of recalling that episode wasn’t clear, since Kaye dug that hole for herself with no assistance from the hapless Goldsmith. But it served the purpose of implying that Goldsmith was somehow tainted by association with the party’s shameful whiteness.

Newshub then played a clip of Goldsmith explaining at the time that no, he wasn’t Maori, as if that somehow further incriminated him. This provided a cue for Lynch to chime in again, saying “Not Maori himself, but speaking for Maori.” Actually, no: he wasn’t purporting to speak for Maori when he talked about the consequences of colonisation, but it suited Lynch to frame his comment that way.

Whatever this was, it wasn’t journalism. It was a hit job of the type we’ve come to expect from Newshub.

There is scope for a balanced, nuanced debate on the effects of colonisation, but don’t expect to see it in the mainstream media, and least of all in anything Lynch or Tova O’Brien have a hand in. And don’t expect it, either, from Goldsmith’s spineless caucus colleagues, who are so cowed by media bullying and so lacking in political conviction that they appear to have completely lost sight of what a centre-right party is supposed to stand for.

All that needs to be said is that Goldsmith’s opinion that colonisation, on balance, was good for Maori is one that a reasonable, informed, non-racist person can validly hold. Yes, colonisation resulted in the dispossession of Maori land, the loss of their language and the disintegration of their traditional way of life. But it also signalled the end of merciless tribal warfare, slaughter, cannibalism and slavery. It introduced the rule of law and led to the evolution of a society that is admired as one of the world’s freest, safest, most tolerant and open.  Only the most incorrigibly woke zealot (Debbie Ngarewa-Packer springs to mind) can ignore that.

But Newshub wasn’t finished with the National Party. As if in a tag wrestling bout, Lynch vacated the ring and O’Brien stepped in. Her target (yet again): Judith Collins.

Not for the first time, Mistress Tova was pursuing Collins over the recently announced retirement of long-serving National MP Nick Smith. But whatever intrigue lies behind Smith’s departure – if indeed there’s any intrigue at all – is a classic Beltway issue, of interest only to political obsessives and too convoluted for the public to untangle even if they could see any point in doing so.

No matter. It provided another opportunity to torment Collins. And once again, she meekly submitted to the dominatrix’s querulous questioning. Is there no limit to the mortification Collins is prepared to endure? I loathed the style of Robert Muldoon and Winston Peters, but sometimes I find myself wishing for a politician bold enough to put amoral, mischief-making journalists in their place.

Left-wing media academics love to talk about journalists speaking truth to power, but that’s not what’s happening here. Almost nightly, Newshub revels in pummelling a demoralised, fragmented National opposition while allowing the sainted Jacinda Ardern and her ministers a largely free run. (I say “largely” because Newshub reporter Michael Morrah is an honourable exception.) It’s the journalistic equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel.

To be fair, National’s weak, divided and ineffectual caucus invites derision. We are witnessing a catastrophic failure of the centre-right, and surely the moment is David Seymour’s to seize. But there’s nothing noble or heroic about gloating, power-tripping journalists savaging a politician who appears to have lost the will to fight.

Jacinda Ardern, queue-jumper

I see the PM is going to have her first Covid-19 jab by the end of this month. By my reckoning that makes her, technically at least, a queue-jumper.

To tell the truth, it doesn’t bother me that Jacinda Ardern will get her jab before me, although being over 65 I’m in Group 3 and therefore theoretically take priority over someone who’s aged 40 and in good health.

I’m in no rush, though that may change if there’s an outbreak of the virus. But the announcement that Ardern is in line to get her jab does highlight the shambolic nature of the vaccination programme and the glaring inconsistencies and discrepancies in the way the government has handled the pandemic.

From Day One, we have been fed porkies. I now refuse to believe a thing Ashley Bloomfield says, simply because of the number of times his glib assurances from the stage of the Beehive Theatrette have been contradicted by evidence of what’s actually happening on the front line. In our house he’s known as Fibber Bloomfield.

But in his defence, he could say he’s simply taking his cue from his political masters. Example: Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins was telling us as long as long ago as November that New Zealand would be "at the front of the queue" for vaccine. But here we are, seven months down the track, and our vaccination performance looks feeble compared with, say, Britain (68.4 million first doses given, 42 per cent of the population fully vaccinated) and the United States (303 million first doses given, 42.6 percent fully vaccinated).

Only two days ago, we learned that 21 per cent of Air New Zealand’s frontline employees still hadn’t received their jabs – a situation epidemiologist Michael Baker, a man not given to wild overstatement, described as “hugely concerning”.

Now Ardern herself is expressing relief that an extra 1 million vaccination doses are being delivered to New Zealand and admits that she was feeling “a little bit of anxiety” (or as she calls it, “anxiedy”). The obvious inference is that the supply is precarious. How does this square with Hipkins’ smug declaration in November? Perhaps he had his fingers crossed behind his back at the time.

The truth is that the vaccination programme has been almost comically inept. As the retired journalist David Barber wrote in a recent letter to the Dominion Post, those of us in Group 3 keep being told “Don’t call us, we’ll call you”. But in the meantime he keeps hearing stories about people jumping the gun and gaming the system.

I can confirm that. Twice on the same day last week, I was contacted by friends offering me a phone number that I could ring to make an appointment. Both have now had their first jab.

One of my informants was given the number in a café by someone he didn’t even know. Nudge nudge, pssst – it sounded like something out of Allo! Allo!.

The government keeps spending our money on full-page ads assuring us that someone will contact us when it’s our turn, but I don’t know anyone who’s had a call or an email from their medical centre or DHB.

This morning I heard general practitioners’ spokesman Bryan Betty complaining that people are still confused about when and where the vaccine will be available, so the medical professionals seem to be as much in the dark as the rest of us. Meanwhile the underground network is obviously buzzing.

I’m reminded of the old Soviet Union, where word would spread like wildfire when a fresh delivery of bread or potatoes arrived at the supermarket and people would run to join the queue. Perhaps the government has chosen the same the mode of delivery for the Pfizer rollout.



Tuesday, June 8, 2021

On racist abuse and what's driving it

Yesterday’s Dominion Post reported that Matthew Tukaki, executive director of the Maori Council, was racially abused in a Wellington street.

Tukaki said a Pakeha woman called him a “black arsehole” as she walked past him near the corner of Willis Street and Lambton Quay.

If the incident happened as described (and what reason would Tukaki have for making it up?), then it suggests that race relations in New Zealand have taken a turn for the worse.

Of course it was just one woman, so we should be careful about overstating its significance. But while we may argue endlessly about what constitutes racism, given that its definition is constantly being stretched in new and inventive directions, most New Zealanders would categorise the reported remark as unambiguously, offensively and deplorably racist.

The big question is, how much longer will we able to classify such incidents as isolated or exceptional? Tukaki says while he rarely encounters such overt racism face to face, he gets racist messages every day. We have to take his word for it that these messages are indeed “racist”, but there’s no doubt that the temperature in the race debate is being cranked up. And more to the point, we shouldn’t delude ourselves about who or what is driving it.

The Dominion Post’s story frames the Wellington street incident in the context of the race hatred that infamously erupted in the Christchurch mosque massacres, but that outrage appeared to have nothing to do with the Maori-Pakeha relationship. The perpetrator was an Australian who drew inspiration from a global alt-right movement that sees itself as defending Western civilisation against mass immigration and Islamism.

The occurrence described by Tukaki, on the other hand, seems distinctly local in tone and should be viewed quite differently from the mosque atrocities. While it may suit some people to draw a link between a racist insult directed at a prominent Maori in the street and the slaughter of 51 Muslims, my guess is that the two events are either completely unrelated or connected only very tenuously.

If it’s true that a new form of overt racial antagonism is emerging in New Zealand, then its origins are almost certainly domestic. I’d go further and say that the primary provocation is coming not from shadowy white supremacists, as the Dominion Post story speculates, but from the opposite direction – from proponents of critical race theory, the Marxist view that societies such as New Zealand are built on oppressive, systemic racism.

To put it another way, the divisive, polarising race rhetoric that we are bombarded with daily is coming overwhelmingly from one side, and it’s not from Pakeha. If we really to want to identify what’s destabilising race relations in New Zealand, we should point the finger at those who relentlessly promote an ideology of apartness – conveniently denying, as I’ve pointed out in this blog, that even the most strident activists carry the supposed curse of European blood.

The activists want to be seen as victims of oppression, not perpetrators. How they reconcile this with their European features and Anglo-Saxon surnames, which testify to the existence of colonial forebears - who by definition were white supremacists, if critical race theory is to be believed - is something they never explain. (As an aside, I note that like most part-Maori leaders, Tukaki routinely lists his tribal affiliation, but he doesn’t mention that he’s descended on his mother’s side from Sir Charles St Julian, a former Chief Justice of Fiji).

The problem for these part-Maori agitators (should we call them Maokeha?) is that if they acknowledged their European descent, the ideological narrative that we are two races, immutably divided into exploiters and exploited, would be deprived of much of its force. But as long as they continue to identify exclusively with their Maori heritage, they lay themselves open to the accusation that they do it because it enables them to exercise power and influence that would otherwise not be available to them.

These are the people who are dialling up the heat in the race debate, and no one should be surprised if a redneck backlash develops. Nothing is more likely to give oxygen to the small minority of true racists in New Zealand – people like the woman Tukaki encountered – than the perception that New Zealand is being reshaped along race-based lines that would advantage those of part-Maori descent. The danger is that the vast majority of New Zealanders who are liberally minded and racially tolerant are likely to get caught in the middle of an unlovely clash between extremes.

Footnote: Anyone who openly opposes the activist agenda risks being defamed as a white supremacist – a casual slur that seeks to invalidate legitimate concerns about racial polarisation. The slander works, frightening a lot of decent New Zealanders into silence. I hear time and time again from people who are deeply concerned about the corrosive effects of race-based politics, but who don’t say anything for fear of being branded as racists. We are a fair-minded people, but we are spineless when it comes to exercising our right to free speech.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Can we now expect Chloe Swarbrick to vote against the "Safe Areas" Bill?

Green MP Chloe Swarbrick has written an eloquent assertion of the right to protest.

“Our communities don’t evolve and progress by sitting around, hoping for the best,” she says in the New Zealand Herald. “Rarely, if ever, does change come from the top.”

She goes on to reflect that “many of the developments we’re proudest of as a country” – she cites the revitalisation of te reo Maori, rainbow rights and the stands against apartheid and nuclear weapons – arose from protests that were “typically pretty tense” and “didn’t come easy”.

She adds: “They never would have happened if protesters had relied solely on pre-existing ‘official’ avenues for civil engagement.”

Perhaps most pertinently, she says: “Peaceful protest often involves putting your body on the line in pretty inconvenient places. The point is to occupy space and time. The point is to make a point. It’s a spotlight firmly on the issue … it’s to show the difference between what is legal and what is ethical.”

Swarbrick’s opinion piece was inspired by the cyclists who defied the police by riding across the Auckland Harbour Bridge, but all of the above applies equally to the people who maintain peaceful vigils outside abortion clinics in protest against the killing of the unborn.

Can we, then, expect Swarbrick to vote against Labour's so-called “Safe Areas Bill”, which is aimed at denying those people their right to protest (or to be more correct, to highlight the fact that abortion involves extinguishing a life)? Or is she just another left-wing hypocrite?

Monday, May 31, 2021

Journalism or indoctrination?

We should be deeply suspicious of the phrase “public interest journalism”. It sounds harmless – indeed, positively wholesome – but it comes laden with ideology.

Like “social justice”, it’s a conveniently woolly term with no settled definition. It sounds like something we should have more of. Who couldn’t be in favour of it? But those who promote “public interest journalism” generally have a very clear idea of what they mean, and it’s not necessarily how ordinary people might interpret it.

This becomes especially problematical when “public interest journalism” is cited as the raison d’être of a government fund set up with the supposed aim of enabling journalism to fulfil its vital purpose in an open democracy, but which closer investigation suggests is intended to create a vehicle for state-approved indoctrination. But more of that later.  

In a sense, the phrase "public interest journalism" is tautological. Most journalism serves the public interest in some way or another, simply by informing people about matters that it might be helpful to know about. At the risk of repeating myself, I can only quote from The Elements of Journalism, by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel: “The purpose of journalism is … to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies and their governments”.

That remains as good a definition of journalism as any. Note that Kovach and Rosenstiel make no mention of telling people what to think. But when leftist media academics (another tautology) use the phrase “public interest journalism”, they have a specific purpose in mind. To them, public interest journalism is journalism that actively works toward political, economic and social outcomes that they perceive to be in the public interest. In other words, it serves as a cover for the pursuit of a progressive agenda.

Public interest sounds noble. I mean, who could object to something being done for the public good? The crucial question, though, is who decides where the public interest lies. That’s the trap with so-called public interest journalism, because it usually reflects a narrow, fixed, elitist and ideologically slanted view of what’s best for the public. Whether or not the public actually wants it is often immaterial. They're left out of the equation. 

To put it another way, public interest journalism is a coded term that disguises an ideological project. Far from viewing the role of journalists as being to convey information in a non-partisan way, advocates of “public interest” journalism regard journalism as a tool for the pursuit of particular goals.

This highlights a fundamental change that has taken place since the training of journalists shifted from newsrooms, where it was based on practical experience attained under the supervision of older hands, to academic institutions where tutors – many with minimal or no journalism experience themselves – approached the subject from a theoretical rather than a practical standpoint, often influenced by the ravings of deranged left-wing sociologists.

Journalists of previous eras had no fanciful notions about functioning as champions of social or economic reform. Very few had been to university, where such ideas tended to be promulgated. They regarded themselves as gatherers of information and tellers of stories. Any with pretensions beyond that were likely to be sharply pulled into line.

That now seems almost quaint. Journalism training has long been ideologically captured, resulting in the emergence of a generation of journalists who see themselves not as passive and impartial observers, conveying important information and leaving it to readers/listeners/viewers to form their own views, but as active agents of change.

This not a hidden agenda; it’s out in the open for everyone to see. In a recent Letter from the Editor, Dominion Post editor Anna Fifield, as is her habit, introduced readers to one of the paper’s journalists – in this case, reporter Ethan Te Ora. Asked what was the best thing about being a journalist, Te Ora answered: “The trust shown to you by people, often at distressing times in their lives.” Fair enough; journalism can’t function properly without trust. But then he added: “The responsibility to frame those experiences in ways that can lead to systemic change.”

That dangerously blurs the line between journalism and propaganda. It’s true that journalism can lead to systemic change, and often does, but that shouldn’t be its purpose. To put it another way, journalism provides the information that often serves as a catalyst for change; but to actively work toward that end leads to the arrogant assumption that idealistic young reporters know what’s best for society and should be free to angle their stories accordingly, emphasising whatever supports their case but excluding evidence or opinions they disagree with.

Objectivity in journalism is fashionably denounced as a myth, thereby giving reporters licence to decide what their readers should know and what should be kept from them. The worthy idea that journalists could hold strong personal opinions about political and economic issues but show no trace of them in their work, which used to be fundamental, has been jettisoned.

All of which leads us, in a roundabout way, to the government’s proposed Public Interest Journalism Fund, which should be viewed in the context outlined above – in other words, with deep scepticism. 

The PIJF should be seen not as evidence of a principled, altruistic commitment to the survival of journalism, which is how it’s been framed, but as an opportunistic and cynical play by a left-wing government – financed by the taxpayer to the tune of $55 million – for control over the news media at a time when the industry is floundering and vulnerable.

The guidelines covering applications for funding from the PIJF are explicitly politicised. Media operators seeking funding are advised, for example, they must “actively promote the principles of Partnership, Participation and Protection [their capitals] under Te Tiriti o Waitangi acknowledging Maori as a Te Tiriti partner”. All applicants must show a “clear and obvious” commitment to the Treaty and te reo; no exceptions.

Another of the guidelines (drawn up by New Zealand on Air, which is administering the fund) requires that applicants must “seek to inform and engage the public about issues that affect a person’s right to flourish within our society and impact on society’s ability to fully support its citizens”. Insofar as this gibberish can be interpreted as meaning anything at all, it suggests a leaning towards activist journalism that seeks to improve the status of disadvantaged groups. Identity politics, in other words.

This interpretation seems to be supported by a further suggestion – no, let’s call it a very unsubtle  hint – that applicants  are likely to be regarded favourably if their journalism proposals “meet the definition of Maori and iwi journalism” or “report from perspectives including Pacific, pan-Asian, women, youth, children, persons with disabilities [and] other ethnic communities”.

"Maori and iwi journalism", incidentally, is defined as being “made by Maori about Maori perspectives, issues and interests prioritising the needs of Maori”. But that’s not journalism; that’s advocacy. The two are quite different and may often be at odds.

Nowhere in the guidelines is there any explicit commitment to the publication of a range of competing views on vital issues – for example, race relations and the Treaty. In fact the guidelines pretty much rule it out, since recipients of public money won't be able to acknowledge the existence of Treaty sceptics, still less give them space or air time, if they’re required to promote the principles of a Treaty “partnership”, the very existence of which the sceptics challenge.

Overall, the guidelines read like an identity politics charter. In other words the PJIF, for all the fine words about the importance of the Fourth Estate as “a central feature of a healthy democracy”, promises to deliver unprecedented power to government commissars who will serve as media gatekeepers, using our money to facilitate content they deem acceptable and shutting out anything (such as, for example, scepticism over climate change policy) that doesn’t conform with officially approved orthodoxy – and all this under the guise of helping the media though a rough patch. 

Ask yourself which is preferable: a hollowed-out news media, unable to properly fulfil its functions (which, to all intents and purposes, is what we have now), or a more powerful one whose priorities are determined by apparatchiks of the state? I’m sure I know which presents the greater hazard.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Men who cling to power because they think it's theirs by right

You could draw a straight line right now between Apia and the Belarus capital of Minsk – or to be more precise, between Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi and Alexander Lukashenko.

The obvious link: two powerful, arrogant old men who hate having their authority challenged.

Lukashenko, the president of benighted Belarus, has been in power for 26 years; Tuilaepa has governed Samoa for 22. The latter is so convinced of his divine right to rule that he recently told reporters he was appointed by God.

Lukashenko is currently in the gun internationally over his extraordinary act of piracy in forcing a Ryanair jet to land so that his thugs could detain a dissident who made the mistake of taking a flight through Belarusian air space.

Sanctions and condemnation are raining down on the ageing tyrant, but they are unlikely to worry him as long as he retains the support of his fellow despot, Vladimir Putin.

Meanwhile, far closer to home, Tuilaepa shows no sign of bowing to popular will and handing power to Fiame Naomi Mata’afa,

There is an unhappy pattern in the Pacific of men reacting badly when democracy threatens their grip on power. We saw it most dramatically in Fiji, when first Sitiveni Rabuka and later Frank Bainimarama – both military bully-boys – deposed legitimate governments. At the heart of those coups lay a stubborn refusal to share power.

At times like this we’re reminded that Pacific societies are typically hierarchical, male-dominated and authoritarian. As was noted in a recent Agence France Press story (written, I suspect, by old Pacific hand Mike Field), respect for one’s elders is deeply ingrained in Pacific cultures. This doesn’t sit comfortably with democracy.

Tonga’s royal family and chiefly caste have ceded power slowly and grudgingly. In Fiji, those accustomed to calling the shots reacted badly when they saw their power being threatened by Fiji Indians. In Samoa, Tuilaepa’s bitter resentment of the recent election result is no doubt compounded by the fact that he was beaten by a woman.

This is a man whose status is enhanced by a string of traditional chiefly titles and who is therefore accustomed to deference. His bloated sense of self-importance was evident in 2014 when he ordered a teenage boy arrested and put in prison for his part in a video mocking him – this after the boy’s family had already been punished by being fined more than $NZ5000, 30 cartons of tinned fish and two cows.

What this tells us is that traditional Polynesian culture can serve as an excuse for a form of feudalism. If a transfer of power in Samoa helps to erode the power of pompous old men like Tuilaepa, that can be no bad thing.

[As an afterthought, perhaps that line linking Apia and Minsk could take a detour via Invercargill, where Tim Shadbolt has been mayor since 1998. He’s now 73 and exhibits all the symptoms of an old man who refuses to accept that he’s past it.

Right now he presides over a plainly dysfunctional council. He’s refusing to reveal why his driver’s licence was recently suspended and his frustrated deputy mayor, who revealed today that he hasn’t spoken to Shadbolt for weeks, has indicated he’ll stand down at the next elections.  He’s the third deputy mayor in as many years.

But don’t expect Shadbolt to take responsibility for this mess, any more than he accepted any blame when an independent review found that tensions on the council were caused by a leadership void.

No doubt he’ll rely on his goofy grin to get him elected yet again, but surely the long-suffering voters of Invercargill must see through him by now. ]

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

We're all in the same waka

One thing that struck me about the background profiles published about Dame Cindy Kiro this week was that while listing her tribal affiliations, they also mentioned that her father came from the north of England.

It was only an incidental point, but it stood out because prominent Maori often don’t acknowledge their Pakeha antecedents.

It has become the norm for people of part-Maori descent to recite iwi connections, but without any reference to their European lineage. That inconvenient part of their ancestry is routinely erased.

I say “inconvenient” because I suspect it suits many part-Maori activists not to acknowledge their bicultural heritage, the reason being that their bloodlines demonstrate that New Zealand is a highly integrated society. This conflicts with their aim of portraying us as intrinsically and irreparably divided, with one side exerting dominance over the other.

Here lies a central paradox of Maori activism that is never confronted, still less explained. It has possibly never been more relevant than now, when a radical agenda of change is being aggressively promoted by people whose mixed ancestry ironically gives the lie to the notion at the heart of their grievances – namely, that this is a country indelibly stained by racial prejudice and divided along racial lines into privileged and disadvantaged.

The truth, to put it in simple terms, is that we’re all in this together. We’re all in the same waka.

If this were truly a racist country, those “Maori” activists with distinctly European features and Anglo-Saxon surnames – testimony to a high degree of historical intimacy between Maori and Pakeha – would not be here. They exist because somewhere in their past, Maori and European partners were attracted to each other and procreated on equal and willing terms. That hardly seems indicative of a racist society.

It suits 21st century agitators to overlook the fact that they carry the DNA of their supposed colonial oppressors and therefore have inherited their supposedly racist legacy. But if those of us who are descended solely from European colonisers carry the taint of racism, then so do they. Have they disowned their Pakeha bloodlines, or are they in denial? Do they, in dark moments of the soul, confront their forebears’ wicked acts as colonisers? I keep waiting for someone to explain how they reconcile these contradictions, but I suspect it’s easier to ignore them.

Of course it’s the absolute right of anyone of part-Maori descent to identify as Maori if they so choose, and to take pride in that side of their heritage; no one should deny them that, and to my knowledge no one wants to. But when they exploit that point of difference to procure political advantage over their fellow citizens, despite sharing the same stain of European ancestry, I think we’re entitled to be sceptical. 

This selective exploitation of racial heritage seems to illustrate the powerful allure of the politically fashionable culture of grievance and victimism. It's just one of many awkward incongruities and half-truths that go unremarked in the divisive propaganda with which New Zealanders are bombarded daily.

Here’s another one. We’re told that Maori were profoundly disadvantaged by colonialism, and that’s true – but only up to a point. Pre-European Maori were a warrior culture that lived by violent conquest and showed no mercy to tribes that were subjugated. Cannibalism, mass murder (including of women and children) and slavery were the norm.

So while it’s incontestable that colonisation resulted in Maori being dispossessed of their lands, a loss that had enormously damaging and demoralising consequences, it’s also incontestable that the British Crown treated Maori with far more respect and dignity than pre-European Maori tribes demonstrated to each other before they were pacified by colonisation. Dare I even mention the peaceable Moriori of Rēkohu (the Chatham Islands), who were massacred and enslaved by invading tribes from the mainland?

It’s also a fact that some Maori chiefs were themselves instrumental in the process of dispossession, sometimes for personal gain and without their peoples’ consent. But don’t expect any of these truths to be highlighted, or even mentioned, when the teaching of New Zealand history becomes compulsory in schools next year (as it should be, but only if the teaching isn’t ideologically skewed in favour of the woke interpretation, as seems likely).

And since I’m on the subject of inconvenient truths, what about the determined campaign – with tacit if not active government endorsement, but no public mandate whatsoever – to replace the recognised names of towns and cities with Maori ones? Like them or not, names such as Auckland, Christchurch and Hamilton reflect the fact that these cities are colonial, not Maori, creations. That’s an historical reality. The fact that the locations where these cities sprang up were once occupied by villages called Tamaki Makaurau, Otautahi and Kirikiriroa – the names now bestowed on them by media such as RNZ and Newshub – is neither here nor there. The cities are not Maori and never were.

By all means, rename these places if that’s what the people who live there want to do. Personally I’d be very happy if New Plymouth were changed to Ngamotu, Napier to Ahuriri and Levin to Taitoko, to give just three examples.  Any significance the English names may have had when they were conferred in colonial times has long been forgotten. But these decisions must be left to the people who live in these places, not foisted on them by virtue-signalling elitists in the media.

The same applies to "Aotearoa" – but even more so, since it’s a name of doubtful authenticity. If the country votes to adopt it in a referendum, fine. But it’s an act of supreme arrogance to introduce Aotearoa into official usage without even a pretence of seeking, still less obtaining, the people’s consent. Such contempt for the public tells us a great deal about the prevailing cultural ethos.

None of this should be taken as meaning we shouldn’t honour and respect our Maori heritage. It is a rich part of our history and one that’s too often invisible, certainly to most Pakeha.

We still tend to think of our history in monocultural terms, assuming it began with the arrival of Tasman, Cook and de Surville. New Zealand’s centuries of pre-European history and its imprints on the landscape are largely ignored. Likewise, there is too little appreciation of the Maori achievement in navigating across the Pacific and establishing a society that, while technologically still in the Stone Age, was otherwise remarkably accomplished and sophisticated – a fact recognised by the first Europeans, who quickly grasped that Maori were not to be trifled with.

There is much about Maori culture that I respect and admire, and I’m sure I am not alone. I believe the Maori heritage has rubbed off on all New Zealanders. It’s one of the distinctive qualities that defines us as a country. The clichéd example is the All Black haka, but you can see the Maori influence elsewhere – for example, in the armed forces, which have traditionally had a high Maori participation rate (the army especially), and which are beneficially imbued with the Maori spirit of pulling together. The Maori influence is one of the reasons New Zealand forces are so respected overseas, especially in Third World countries; they have an easy affinity with locals that Australian forces apparently lack.

As an aside, I was recently reading about the exploits of the British army’s Long Range Desert Group, which initially consisted largely of New Zealanders, in the Second World War. Many of the soldiers in the LRDG were Pakeha farmers, but I found it interesting that they proudly painted Maori names on their vehicles – a tiny thing, perhaps, but indicative of pride in New Zealand’s Maori heritage and a telling signifier of cross-cultural solidarity.

We forget, too, that Maori men were able to vote 12 years before Pakeha males and that a Maori politician, Sir James Carroll of Ngati Kahungungu (Timi Kara to Maori, though his father was Irish) not only won election in a general seat as long ago as 1893, but twice served as acting prime minister. Mention these facts next time an ill-educated young zealot tries to tell you what a racist past New Zealand has.

The truth is that a great deal of beneficial cross-fertilisation has taken place between Maori and Pakeha, and a deep reservoir of mutual goodwill accumulated. Most New Zealanders would probably agree this is something unique in the world and worth preserving. We should steadfastly resist those who place it at risk by trying to drive us into angry opposing camps.