Thursday, 10 November 2011
The Politics of Distraction
I have now been on the campaign trail for the Maori Party for about a week. I have spoken on a wide range of issues, to an even wider range of people. Many of the events that I have spoken at have had very few, or in some instances no Maori present.
I have always been a confident girl, but even if I say so myself - it takes guts to present a kaupapa Maori korero, to a non-Maori (and sometimes hostile) audience. It is a very lonely and daunting experience.
I have no problem presenting to Maori, in fact I think my korero improves when I have a 'friendly Maori face in the audience' because at least I know that one person is going to 'get' what I am saying. Most of the time, you can also guarantee that a Maori in the audience will support you no matter what, because we 'get it' - we know what its like to be a minority group, to have a different perspective on life, and to have our kaupapa korero misunderstood because the majority can easily dismiss us, ignore us, or submerge us.
So it is on that note, that I want to discuss how it feels now that we as 'Maori' are divided within ourselves.
We have never been a homogeneous group, and our history tells us, that 'kotahitanga' has always eluded us. The hikoi brought us an unprecedented moment of unity - on which we formed the Maori Party, which as we know, later split to become the "Mana" and the "Maori" Parties. It has been quite an interesting dynamic to walk into a room, and not know whether the Maori boy over there has your back or is going to stick the boot it. It is actually horrible beyond belief.
If you read my speech to the Maori Party AGM, you will know that I went to Kohanga Reo, Kura Kaupapa Maori, and was brought up by parents committed to 'kaupapa maori'. I was taught through all these experiences, that we must think for more than ourselves, and beyond this time - we must think about 'social transformation' of our people, for honoring our tipuna, for the future of our kids, and for the shared aspiration of 'tino rangatiranga' and 'equality' within our own land. Being "on the kaupapa" - as it has since been termed.
The political division within Maoridom has forced me to question whether collectively we are still 'on the kaupapa'. It has also forced me to ask some hard questions of myself - am I on the kaupapa? am I a 'kupapa'? am I on the 'wrong waka'? am I an instrument of oppression? I ask these of myself, because this is what some of my own are calling the Maori Party, and by association - me.
The answer in my head is no. I am not any of these things.
So are my mentors within the Maori Party guilty of the above? In my view - no, they are not. In fact I could tell you stories of great courage for every single MP in the Maori Party - things that happen behind closed doors, things that happen in parliament when there are no camera's watching. Things like taking it in the neck from Labour and National - whose political games include mockery, direct attack, undermining, distraction, greasing, filibustering and a number of other things.
I could tell you stories of absolute sacrifice. Of moments when all of us are like the walking dead from lack of sleep, of days where you are in at 4am and home at 1am - you work hard, and you do it to get better outcomes for the people that you represent. It is hard work, and I tell you what, no salary can compensate for the long hours, the weight of expectation, the time away from your whanau, the 'crap' you take from people, the racism you get exposed to because you are the Maari Party. You do it, because you have a sense of higher purpose. You do it, because you are on the kaupapa.
The truth is - parliament is a volatile place, and the politics are vicious. And if you don't have your people behind you, you have nothing. Your power to negotiate and make change is derived from the strength of the numbers of people behind you.
So when people turn around and tell you that you have sold out, that you have become too 'cosy' with a Party that you have had to work with for the last three years (as the poor 'take you or leave you' brother) , that you haven't done enough for our people, that you are 'kupapa'- yes it becomes personal.
But I choose not to go there, because my personal view is that we need to get our act together as a collective, and start working together towards achieving the best outcomes for Maori. It doesn't mean an amalgamation of our two parties, but it does mean leaving the name calling, personal politics and attacks behind. Because while we are distracted by ourselves, the big parties, who are the real machines behind the sad state of our Maori nation, are laughing all the way to the bank.
I also want to say that I do not approve of misleading our people just to get a vote, or playing tit for tat. I do not approve in people disrespecting our pakeke, our kaumatua, or anyone else for that matter simply because they do not agree with you. And finally, I do not agree with those who stoke the fire deliberately to see us divided amongst ourselves.
This is the politics of distraction. It is this, that we must all rise above if we are truly to have a strong voice in parliament, and if we are truly to deliver change for the greater aspirations of our people. I miss my comrades, so lets get it together.