Landback and Political Reform – The Base Standards of Tiriti Justice

One of the important points I always try to impress upon people, is that racism is an economic project. It has always been, from the very beginning, about extraction of labour, resources, and land from non-white people. The idea that one group has a right to claim domination over another – based upon supremacy of genes, skin colour, ethnicity or similar characteristics – was not a mere intellectual exercise, it existed to justify the taking of land, resources and people. It was this same racist premise of the right to dominate that underpins the establishment of colonial governments, which was necessary in order to protect their ill-gotten privilege and maintain their ownership of what was stolen. In 1944-45, these same governments then established the Bretton-Woods system (today consisting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF); International Finance Corporation (IFC); Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA); The World Bank; and the The World Trade Organization (WTO)), and they have done their job very effectively – with a few exceptions, wealth has largely been retained exclusively by European nations, and those they have colonized – and within the colonized nations, it is largely retained by European settlers.

Ethnic wealth disparity in USA

Ethnic wealth disparity in Aotearoa

It’s these economic underpinnings of racism, combined with the fact that most nations are now run through a form of “market democracy” dominated by economic interests, which makes racism very difficult to effectively unpick – the nations and ethnicities who stand to materially lose the most from an anti-racist future, are the nations that hold the bulk of power to effect that change. If you want to learn more about how corporations exploit market democracy to purchase power and influence, I’d recommend this paper by Daniel Nyberg on CPA (Corporate Political Activity) as a form of political corruption.

In Aotearoa – what this means is that the government who established itself as a means to grabbing power over land and resources – has managed to protect its privilege by writing the laws and legislation about how we will be governed, how we will interact with the global economy, how land will be managed, developed, and transferred.

It is these laws over the land, over the resources and minerals held in the belly of that land, the laws over the waters that nourish our land, and the waters that surround our land, and the seabed beneath those waters – which prop up the New Zealand economy, and therefore also prop up those who benefit the most from the New Zealand economy. It’s been argued by many that the laws and legislation which continue to oppress Māori in the justice, welfare, health and education sector also function to “contain” us so that the colonial exploitation of our lands and waters can continue with minimal interference.

The landtheft that looks like this:

Is directly related to this:

Which is, in turn related to Māori dominating the statistics in housing-related illness. This of course means that “fixing Māori health” (or indeed most other issues relating to Māori) must also necessarily include economic justice, and political justice, particularly over Māori land. Tiriti justice cannot happen in silos, it must take place from the very top, and must be across all-of-government.

Which is a problem, because we are in effect waiting for the fox to voluntarily give the henhouse back.

The implications of a political-economic system built upon colonial racism are multiple, (and they all require action):

1Market democracy and corporate interests will continue to rule supreme over planetary and Indigenous rightsWe need to re-envision a new approach to politics that centers Te Tiriti and doesn’t see-saw advancements every 4-8 years because of a change in party.
2Colonial empathy runs out at (or well before) material sacrifice or political reform and it will do everything in its power to evade a full reckoning with its own malfeasance (huge timewaster)Prioritise anti-racist/Indigenous critical analysis training so that we can identify and shut down colonial rhetorical tools used to evade these bottomlines
3Colonial racism against Indigenous peoples is the last form of racism to be addressedBe uncompromising on the standards of economic justice – landback, reparation, economic reform, restorative investment – make these the BASE standards of anti-racist progress and highlight every instance where these standards are failed
4Colonial governments, with their in-built blinders towards white supremacy (and certainly their own white supremacy) are ineffective at protecting Indigenous defenders from white supremacist violenceAs much as we like to tell governments and white people that racism is theirs to solve, we cannot leave it up to them. They are not inclined to see it, or cannot see it, or even when they do see it, have normalised it and are thus not inclined to do anything about it. We have to get involved
5Colonial racism will rely upon its global colonial allies/system to prop itself upContinue to challenge transnational institutions and whatever righteousness they believe they have, through Indigenous and other global alliances

If you have not yet read Matike Mai Aotearoa: HERE. Download it and read it today.

When we take all of this into consideration its quite unsurprising that the “Stop Co-governance” roadshow was initiated by a property dispute between an old, white male evangelist who decided he would use his considerable privilege to reframe Tiriti justice progress as a “Māori takeover”. When you are used to extreme privilege, you see, anything less than that feels like oppression.

Here’s the irony though – while we are hearing time and time again (even from our own government) that “co-governance is nothing to be afraid of”, the same government is also refusing to acknowledge that the current proposals of “co-governance” fall well short of Tiriti justice, and also lacks the courage and temerity to step into the overdue discussion of a Tiriti-centered constitution for Aotearoa.

Noam Chomsky once said:

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum….”

And that is exactly what is being done in the realm of political reform in Aotearoa.

The debate of “To co-govern or not co-govern” is eclipsing the point that co-governance is not necessarily a Tiriti standard. This has already been deliberated over by the Crown appointed judicial body on the matter, after hearing years of evidence from all angles, including qualified experts (not social media opinion-erts). The conclusion was: Māori never ceded sovereignty. They agreed, in 1840, to allow for a governor to maintain control over settlers – this did not extend to land-rights, it did not extend to ultimate political authority, even shared, or even with guaranteed Māori influence within that ultimate authority.

From Te Paparahi o Te Raki Stage 2 Report pg: xxxiv

What was envisioned in the signing was that Māori would retain ultimate authority over our lands, waters, people and treasured matters (including our cultural expressions and language). If you read Matike Mai Aotearoa, it’s also recognised that there will need to be some areas where we convene with the Crown to navigate shared interests – but that is a far cry from the models of “co-governance” currently being promoted by the Crown.

Colonial oppressors have responded to Indigenous rights advancements in two ways:

  1. They have ramped up threats, harassment and fear based propoganda towards Indigenous rights defenders, which has crossed over into real-life harassment and violence (relying upon the racist bias of government systems to allow them to do so with impunity)
  2. They have become more sophisticated at co-opting our terms and concepts for their own ends, limiting the parameters of the debate, making justice appear unreasonable and derailing our pathway towards an anti-racist, just Aotearoa

While many have pinned their hopes on the date of 2040 for political reform – I fear we don’t have that much time up our sleeve. Here and overseas we are seeing supremacist violence gather speed and support in both online and offline spaces. We are unravelling as a society, at a critical time in our history when we most need to come together for the future of our planet and humankind.

It’s imperative that we educate ourselves broadly on Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and reject the racist and completely false fear-based rhetoric surrounding Tiriti justice – both from the likes of Batchelor and from our own government. It’s imperative that we familiarise ourselves with Matike Mai Aotearoa and embrace the promise that political reform will bring our nation – not in 2040, not in 2030, but now.

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