• Tino Rangatiratanga for Tangata Whenua and New Zealanders

last modified December 17, 2012 by strypey

Danyl Strype of Disintermedia.net.nz offers a model by which both historically dispossessed Māori and more recently dispossessed pākeha (especially since the 1980s) can come together to take back control of our lives and our corporatized commons, and live together in freedom, peace, and justice.

There is a longstanding tradition in this country of trying to manipulate pākeha New Zealanders into supporting a softened form of white supremacy, which increases the power of state-corporate entities to "normalise" minority groups. Despite the vocal minority of hot-heads on talkback radio, most "kiwis" support values of a fair go for all, supportive communities that leave nobody behind, and respect for diverse cultures ("different strokes for different folks"). Because of this, the supremacy agenda has to be concealed beneath rhetoric that appears to support these values, from Don Brash's infamous 'one law for all' speech as leader of the National Party, to the Coastal Coalition's support for "public ownership" of areas of foreshore and seabed to the "TreatyGate" and "Colourblind State" propaganda campaign by John Ansell and Louis Crimp.

Brash's 'one law' is, of course, the statute law imposed by parliament through the enforcement arms of the NZ State. It is not the first law of Aotearoa; tikanga, tangata whenua law which includes principles of kaitiakitanga, mana whenua, utu etc. Nor is the modern corpus of state law always compatible with common law, the ancient "freeman" principle that every person is free to live by their own rules, unregulated by any king, lord, or state-corporate body, providing they do no harm to others. The Coastal Coalition may have supported the NZ State in confiscation of beaches included in claims of mana whenua, but they never supported the confiscation of beaches owned by farmers through "riparian rights" under private title. Ansell and Crimp's demand for a "Colourblind" state willfully ignores the fact that the modern NZ corporate-state (euphemistically called a "nation-state") is based entirely on white (European) traditions of law and government, except for the bits they oppose like the Waitangi Tribunal, and the bits based on common law which have been selectively pruned away or buried.

That said, all is not well with modern Māori governance either. Activists like Annette Sykes frequently criticises the iwi elites represented by bodies like the Iwi Leaders Group for the many ways in which they have smoothly taken over and continued the dispossession of their own people. The irony of this is that "colourblind" white supremists like Crimp and Ansell, and the academics they reference like Elisabeth Rata, are correct that there are some Māori who are enjoying privilege and an increase in their accesss to wealth, and radicals like Sykes would agree with them. The problem is that academics like Rata, and demagogues like Ansell and Crimp, then take this a step further, claiming that anyone of Māori descent is now enjoying privelege and wealth, when it's perfectly obvious that it's not the case. What's really happened is that the same state-corporate system which concentrates wealth in the hands of 1% in pākeha society is being imposed on tangata whenua communities, with similar results.

The economic and political strucutures of modern New Zealand, which are shaped by all of the above, work overwhelmingly in favour of the owners of private property. At this point they are overwhelming a handful of white men and their wives, but it doesn't really matter what their racial background is, and the situation would be no better if they were replaced by a handful of brown men and their wives, or a handful of white or brown women and their husbands.

In contrast, a federal structure is the only way I can see to simultanously address both the desire of our First Nations, like Ngai Tūhoe, for structural recognition of their mana motuhake (autonomy/ self-determination), and the legtimate concerns of pākeha New Zealanders about becoming peons to the sort of neo-aristocracy represented by the Iwi Leaders Group. A political system which defends basic rights for everyone ("one law for all" in one sense), while facilitating dialogue and local democracy, rather than enforcing a tyranny of the majority through parliamentary supremacy. Perhaps we could use this thread to envision what the key feature of a federal democracy in Aotearoa might look like? Here are some of my ideas.

Firstly, it could be based on autonomous regions, self-governing, and self-defining, based on voluntary association, not hard territorial boundaries. For example, the hapū of Ngai Tūhoe might agree to form an autonomous region covering most of their traditional rohe in and around Te Urewera. However, Te Urewera might have multiple Tūhoe regions. Non-Tūhoe (Māori, Pākeha or otherwise) living in the vicinity of Te Urewera could choose to work within a Tūhoe regional authority, or form their own. Regional bodies could not force any tangata/ person, whānau/ family, or hapū/ community (of any race or ethnicity) living in that region to join, but to balance this, there could be no dogma of absolute "property rights" legitimizing the pollution of the environment, or anything else that impinges on the rights of neighbours, including those living in wild nature.

Naturally, this would severely prune back the powers of parliament. Just as the UN General Assembly has to work towards consensus among the independent nation-state represented, rather than having any power to give them orders, parliament could be reconstituted as a federal assembly which must work towards consensus among the autonomous regions (districts/ cities) represented. Representatives to the federal assembly could have no power to make decisions without a specific mandate from the people of their region. I suggest that representatives not have the power to "block" a decision, but must instead articulate a counter-proposal which transcends and includes the best aspects of the decision they oppose.

However, regional autonomy is no excuse to discriminate against people from some neighbourhoods, or starve them of resources. Neighbourhood autonomy is no excuse to enslave workers, to stone women for adultery, to abuse children, or to bully queers. Thus, the federal assembly could have the duty of nurturing internal democracy at all levels; eg defending neighbourhoods from tyranny by the region, and defending individuals from tyranny by the neighbourhood.

Initially there may be a proliferation of micro-regions. In extreme edge cases, a hermit or eccentric community or village could declare their isolated block of land an autonomous region, and demand representation in the federal assembly. However, if decisions of that assembly are by consensus, not majority vote, and if it does not allow filibustering through "blocking", representatives from tiny regions could not game the system as one-MP-parties do in parliament today. In fact, they may bring new information and unique local perspectives into the discussions, bring about more innovative decisions.

As people got used to the new system and learned to find consensus with their neighbours, I suspect many smaller regions would voluntarily merge, or form confederations, until the federal assembly had a workable number of representatives for easily finding consensus on those matters which affect everyone in the whole country. In my experience, the work required to feed into large-scale assemblies mostly discourages the proliferation of micro-regions. With Aotearoa Indymedia for example, it was a painless process to get consensus that is was a more efficient use of our volunteer energy to have one Indymedia feeding back to the global network of IMCs, rather than one for each of the cities where we had an active group. Had we formed multiple IMCs at that stage, I think it inevitable they would have merged into a single confederation over time, simply to reduce the amount of energy consumed by administration.

Originally published on Aotearoa.Indymedia.org  (September, 2012