Monday, 2 May 2016

A Very Good Reason To Keep Friday Afternoon Free.

 
Associate-Professor
Nick Dyer-Witheford
will deliver a public lecture entitled
"The Cyber-Proletariat: Global Labour in the Digital Vortex"
Friday, 6 May
WG404, Sir Paul Reeves Building
AUT City Campus
3:00pm - 4:00pm
 

DYER-WITHEFORD argues that the combination of automation, logistical command and financialization enabled by information technology raises to a new intensity a fundamental dynamic of capitalism – its drive to simultaneously induct populations into waged labour and expel them as un- or under-employed superfluous to its increasingly machinic systems. Digitization has accelerated this moving contradiction, creating a cyclonic process that on the one hand, envelops the globe in networked supply chains and agile production systems, making labour available to capital on a planetary scale, and, on the other, drives development of adept automata and algorithmic software that renders such labour redundant. In this whirlwind, the traditional, Euro-centrically conceived, stereotypically male "working class" of the global north-west is disintegrating into, one the one hand, a strata of technology professionals, tending to identification with digital capital, though shot through with hacker proclivities and, on the other, a vast pool of un-, under- and vulnerably employed labour; transnational and feminized. They live in the shadowlands between work and worklessness that has always defined the proletarian condition. Divided across border-policed wage-zones of a world-market, the fractions of this global proletariat are frequently in tension with one another, even as they are subject to common exploitation by capital. Thus, though the technical composition of class is apparent, its composition is rife with political contradictions.
 
 
This posting is exclusive to Bowalley Road.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

The Death Of Kiwi “Spiritedness”.

Free Spirits? There was a time when that Kiwi urge to match and, if possible, to exceed the achievements of other, larger societies, extended well beyond the confines of sport. What other word but “spirited” could describe the exploits of the Anzacs at Gallipoli; the struggle of the wharfies and their trade union allies in 1951; or the 56 days of protest that greeted the 1981 Springbok Tour? What was New Zealand’s anti-nuclear stance if not thymos in action?
 
PLATO, the Ancient Greek philosopher, likened the human psyche to a chariot in full flight. Propelling the chariot forward were two powerful horses. The first, Eros, symbolised the human pursuit of physical well-being and pleasure. The second, Thymos, symbolised the human quest for recognition and renown. Controlling these unruly steeds, in Plato’s scheme, was the charioteer, Logos, symbolising the power of reason to reconcile and balance the driving passions of humankind.
 
The Ancient Greeks assumed that what was true for the individual must also be true for human societies as a whole. If the masses, like individuals, are driven by a combination of the desire for comfort and pleasure and the need to be thought well of and admired, then it behoves their rulers, like any good charioteer, to strike the best balance between the masses’ psychic drivers. The trick lay in ensuring that neither Eros nor Thymos became too strong. In no other context was the Ancient Greek maxim: “moderation in all things” more highly prized than politics.
 
It is important to note here that thymos has a meaning over and above the quest for recognition and renown. It also describes the quality of “spiritedness” – as in a spirited stallion, or a spirited debate. It’s a quality most of us have little difficulty in recognising, but frequently struggle to define.
 
A person, or a society, in which the quality of thymos was lacking would have no desire to seek recognition or renown. They would be preoccupied with securing creature comforts and pursuing strictly personal and private gratifications. Making money and amassing possessions would count for much more than making a name for themselves or amassing the good opinions of their fellow citizens. Such people might best be described as the inhabitants of an “erotic” society.
 
Has New Zealand society become “eroticised” in this way? Has Logos, our charioteer, given Eros his head, while reining Thymos in? Are we being driven in circles?
 
Not on the sporting field we’re not. In fact, it is difficult to imagine an environment more expressive of thymos than the world of New Zealand sport. When the All Blacks perform the haka they become the living embodiment of thymotic power.
 
And yet, there is something about the professionalization and commercialisation of sport that smacks more than a little of the erotic. The days of amateur Rugby players: of the men who competed for nothing more than recognition and renown among their countrymen; are long gone. Today, we are invited to consume the performances of our sporting heroes in ways that are barely distinguishable from the ways we are encouraged to consume the products of their sponsors.
 
The fate of New Zealand sport echoes the fate of New Zealand society generally. There was a time when that Kiwi urge to match and, if possible, to exceed the achievements of other, larger societies, extended well beyond the confines of sport. What other word but “spirited” could describe the exploits of the Anzacs at Gallipoli; the struggle of the wharfies and their trade union allies in 1951; or the 56 days of protest that greeted the 1981 Springbok Tour? What was New Zealand’s anti-nuclear stance if not thymos in action?
 
That so many New Zealanders no longer feel driven to “punch above their weight” should prompt us to question just how rationally and reasonably our charioteers have acted over the past 30 years.
 
Clearly “spiritedness” was not a quality they felt comfortable encouraging. But, equally clearly, they were more than happy to encourage Kiwis to consume as much as they could afford – and more. Somehow, the reasonable charioteers, who had understood the need to keep the erotic and thymotic urges evenly balanced in New Zealand society, had been usurped.
 
Those currently in charge of New Zealand no longer argue for a political settlement that recognises the needs of body and spirit. The propensity of thymos to challenge the lassitude and moral cowardice of erotic societies renders it subversive in the eyes of our new charioteers. Reason, rationality, wisdom: the key attributes of Plato’s logos; have become synonymous with the unconstrained transactions of the marketplace. Spirited citizens have been replaced by docile consumers.
 
Nothing captures New Zealand’s psychic subversion like the selfie. There was a time when thymotic Kiwis made the world photograph them. Now erotic Kiwis photograph themselves.
 
This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 22 April 2016.

The Wolf Within: Some Thoughts On The "Dangerous Dogs" Controversy.

Man's Best Friends: They were not our pets but our co-workers – valued members of the human packs into which they had been inducted. The lives these wolf-like creatures led with their human companions weren’t, in truth, all that different from the lives they’d led as wild creatures. They still ranged far and wide in search of prey: padding softly through vast forests; loping tirelessly across endless grasslands. The wolf within was never very far away. Neither was humankind.
 
NO ONE KNOWS exactly how it happened. Some say it was the starved remnant of a hunting pack drawn to a human encampment by the smell of roasting meat. A single individual, most likely female, probably ready to whelp, willing to risk anything, even the wrath of these hairless apes, for the sake of her unborn pups.
 
No one knows who did it. A mother, perhaps, looking out into the darkness at the edge of the firelight and seeing its reflection in the eyes of the wretched, desperate and importunate she-wolf looking back at her.
 
No one knows why she did it. When the hunters asked, astonished, she just tightened her hold on the shivering animal’s neck and shook her head.
 
The men would have killed the starving creature there and then, but the tribal shaman stayed their hand. The call had been made. The call had been answered. The she-wolf was theirs now, the tribes’, and so were her offspring – for all time.
 
What they had feared would now be feared by others. The Tribe had a new hunter, a new lookout, a new protector. Henceforth they would call themselves, and be known as, the People of the Wolf.
 
Sixteen-thousand years later, it’s easy to forget the context out of which the human species acquired its oldest and most steadfast animal companion.
 
Long before we learned to cultivate the grasses of the hillside, or to domesticate the animals that grazed upon them, the canine carnivores that would, in time, become “dogs” hunted and gathered at our side.
 
They were not our pets but our co-workers – valued members of the human packs into which they had been inducted. The lives these wolf-like creatures led with their human companions weren’t, in truth, all that different from the lives they’d led as wild creatures. They still ranged far and wide in search of prey: padding softly through vast forests; loping tirelessly across endless grasslands. The wolf within was never very far away. Neither was humankind.
 
To gain some insight into the sort of expectations our distant ancestors had of dogs, one has only to visit a farm, or join a pig-hunting expedition. In both contexts, the hunting instincts of dogs’ wolfish ancestors have been honed to a nicety. To witness a well-trained sheep-dog turning a herd of ewes, or a trio of pig-dogs launching themselves upon a tusker at bay, is to understand what a very beneficial bargain was struck all those millennia ago between the barkers and the talkers.
 
Had they remained our co-workers – valued partners in the enterprise of survival – dogs and humans could have remained the truest of friends. Unfortunately, however, the clever brains of the hairless apes, and the almost infinitely malleable genes of the canine species ruined the relationship.
 
In the words of Slate magazine columnist, William Saletan: “Dogs are the world’s longest self-serving, ecologically reckless genetic experiment, perpetrated by the world’s first genetically engineering species: us.” He’s right: we have been breeding dogs for centuries; re-purposing them in lock-step with human civilisation’s own ever-increasing reliance on specialisation.
 
“In the course of engineering dogs to look, feel, and act as we wanted,” says Saletan, “we ruined millions of them. We gave them legs so short they couldn’t run, noses so flat they couldn’t breathe, tempers so hostile they couldn’t function in society.”
 
Signs warning passers-by to “Cave Canis” – Beware of the Dog – abounded in Ancient Rome. As well they might have, given the Romans proclivity for breeding large, black and thoroughly vicious guard dogs to protect their property. Not that these squat canine sentinels were anywhere near as intimidating as the terrifying dogs-of-war that accompanied Rome’s legions into battle. These brutes could crush a man’s skull like an eggshell.
 
It is only relatively recently that anyone other than the very rich could aspire to keep dogs as pets. Up until the twentieth century, dogs, like plough-horses and house-cats, were expected to earn their keep. An aristocratic lady might carry a little dog in her lap – but not a peasant girl.
 
How things have changed. Dogs are big business in today’s world, their upkeep alone representing billions in corporate profit.
 
Popular culture paints the dog as a fun-loving member of the suburban family – as harmless as it is companionable. It is considered neither helpful nor polite to remind these folk that they are sharing their lives with animals boasting inch-long incisors and bone-crushing jaws.
 
True, the aforementioned genetic engineering has eliminated much that is dangerous from a large number of dog breeds – many of which are too small to pose a serious risk to human life and limb. In some dogs, however, the purposes for which they were bred: hunting and fighting; sit uncomfortably with suburban family fun.
 
The wolf within is never far away. Neither is humankind.
 
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 26 April 2016.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Only Anger: Thoughts On Anzac Day 2016.

The First World War: A crime so colossal that it simply overpowered the imaginations of those who lived through it and after it.
 
IF YOU WERE ASKED”: What emotion is appropriate for Anzac Day? How would you answer?  Pride? Respect? Gratitude? My answer has always been, and continues to be, Anger. Bitter, searing, righteous anger at the waste of so many young lives, and at the lies told to justify a crime so colossal that it simply overpowered the imaginations of those who lived through it and after it.
 
For more than a hundred years those lies have transformed the terrible losses of the First World War into a perverse source of pride, respect and gratitude. Not only have they kept the truth about the war’s origins and objectives hidden, but they have also made it practically impossible to challenge the official version of events. This is no small achievement when the consequences of those events are still shaping our lives.
 
At the heart of the darkness that sent millions of young men to their deaths was Great Britain’s determination to destroy the thriving German economy and seize the strategic resources of the decrepit Ottoman Empire.
 
Unchecked, the German economy would have dominated the whole of Europe by the second or third decade of the twentieth century (much as it dominates Europe today). Even more worryingly, the German Empire’s increasingly close economic, diplomatic and military relationship with the Ottoman Empire would have ensured its privileged access to the strategic super-fuel of the twentieth century – oil. From the early years of the century, therefore, the reduction of Germany became the idée fixe of British foreign-policy.
 
Great Britain’s natural ally in this policy was France. Decisively defeated by the Germans in 1871, France was acutely aware that its influence in Europe was steadily being eroded by Germany’s dramatic economic growth. It’s only hope of remaining a major player in world affairs was, therefore, to strike its neighbour a crushing blow.
 
France’s key strategic problem, however, was that it could not deliver such a blow on its own – it needed allies. The first of these, the Russian Empire, was made available by the German Emperor, Wilhelm II’s, failure to renew his country’s crucial Reinsurance Treaty with Russia. The French were only too happy to fill the diplomatic vacuum created by the German Emperor’s strategic blunder.
 
This new Franco-Russian “understanding” suited British interests extremely well. Not only was Germany now faced with a war on two fronts, but, by drawing the Russians towards Europe, the French were relieving Russian pressure on the borders of the “jewel” in Britain’s imperial crown – India.
 
All that Britain required to unleash a devastating conflict upon its most dangerous economic rival was a plausible pretext. This it acquired by allowing the French and the Russians a free hand in the Balkans.
 
Europe’s flashpoint, the Balkans were the point of intersection of multiple imperial interests: Austro-Hungarian; Russian; Ottoman; and Serbian. Any move by the Austro-Hungarian Empire against its ultra-nationalist neighbour, Serbia, was bound to draw in the latter’s Russian protectors. A Russian thrust against Germany’s ally, Austria-Hungary, would, likewise, draw Germany into the conflict. German involvement would activate the Franco-Russian alliance – immediately plunging Germany into a strategically perilous two-front war.
 
Britain knew that if Germany was to avoid being caught between the French hammer and the Russian anvil, it would have to deliver a knockout blow to the French before the full weight of Russia’s vast army could be brought to bear on its eastern front. The only effective means of delivering such a blow was to direct Germany’s army through neutral Belgium and come at Paris from the north-west.
 
In other words, to enter the war with “clean hands”, Britain had only to give France its head in the Balkans. It was pretty sure that the French, with Russian connivance, would find a way to set Austria-Hungary at Serbia’s throat – thereby initiating a general European war. The assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne in the little Bosnian town of Sarajevo on 28 June 1914 by Serbian terrorists proved to be an admirably serviceable trigger.
 
Once the Germans detected the preparations for a Russian mobilisation against not only their Austro-Hungarian ally, but also themselves, the die was cast. Germany mobilised pre-emptively, her armies smashed their way through neutral Belgium, and Britain was supplied with the morally unassailable excuse for doing what she had been planning to do for the best part of a decade – unleashing war on Germany.
 
It was in pursuit of these blunt imperial objectives that more than 12,000 young New Zealanders were sent to their deaths. Not for democracy: our allies, the Russians, were governed by an absolute monarch; and our enemies, the Germans, boasted a more inclusive franchise that Britain’s. And certainly not for freedom: imperialism and liberty do not mix. As for the “values” New Zealanders were supposedly defending on the slopes of Gallipoli. I’d like to think that these: extreme racism, unthinking obedience to those in authority; and the extension of British power across the globe; would be rejected out-of-hand by the vast majority of modern New Zealanders.
 
As I note in, No Left Turn:
 
A patriotic painting from the depths of the war says it all. Entitled “The Casualty List”, it depicts a grief-stricken mother, her head bowed before the framed photograph of her soldier son on the mantelpiece, a copy of The New Zealand Herald dangling limply from her hand. In the top left-hand corner of the painting we see the moment of his death – the young hero’s body reeling backwards as his comrades press on towards the foe. It is a sombre work, and skilfully rendered, but it does not tell the truth about the war. Captured instead is the sense of loss; the awful ache that clawed at the hearts of practically every New Zealand family in the aftermath of the carnage. That much – but no more – was all the nation was permitted to feel. Questions about what it had all been for were met with the palliative care of capitalised nouns: Justice, Honour, Liberty, Country, Democracy. The unbearable reality – that they had died to preserve the prosperity of those who stayed behind – had to be, and was, suppressed.
 
It is still being suppressed. And if none of the arguments advanced above are sufficient to rouse your indignation, then the ongoing and deliberate suppression of the truth about the origins and objectives of the First World War should make you very angry indeed.
 
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Monday, 25 April 2016.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Raging Against The Dying American Light

E Pluribus Unum: Out of the four leading contenders for the Presidency, the American electorate and/or the Republican and Democratic Party "grandees" must contrive to winnow down the choice to just two (or three, if they fail) and then to just one. Not since the 1850s has the American Republic been confronted with an electorate less disposed to swing in behind the last man - or woman - standing.
 
THE AMERICAN PRESIDENTIAL election campaign is entering a critical stage. The results of the forthcoming primary elections in the big, delegate-rich, north-eastern states of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania will go a long way towards determining which of the Republican and Democratic candidates square-off against each other in November.
 
For the Democratic challenger, Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont, it’s make-or-break time. If he cannot inflict a series of decisive defeats upon front-runner Hillary Clinton in these three great Democratic Party redoubts, then his candidacy will be dead in the water and the Democratic Party Convention in late July will be the Clinton coronation her supporters have always predicted.
 
On the Republican Party side, the race could get a whole lot more complicated. A failure by Trump to come storming back in his home state, New York, may well end his hopes of winning the 1,237 delegates he needs to secure the Republican nomination. If neither Trump, nor his principal rival, Texas senator Ted Cruz, has the numbers to win on the first ballot, then the world will be treated to a spectacle unwitnessed in twenty-first century American politics – a brokered convention.
 
Will the assembled Republican delegates, no longer pledged to dance with the candidate they came with, install Trump or Cruz anyway? Or, will they swing their support behind the allegedly “moderate” Governor of Ohio, John Kasich? The possibility that the candidate may turn out to be someone entirely unlooked for: someone “drafted” by the convention delegates themselves; cannot be discounted.
 
What is it that has produced these high levels of political volatility and uncertainty in American society? How has the usually elite-driven process of selecting a presidential candidate been transformed into this rowdy festival of unguided democracy?
 
Before answering that question, it is worth pausing for a moment to consider the implications of the previous sentence.
 
Because whatever its critics may say about the American system, this year’s presidential race is proof that the great republic is still very much the creature of “We, the People of the United States.” Trump is selling populism; Cruz conservatism; Sanders idealism; and Clinton is retailing pragmatism. “Step right up!” their respective barkers shout: “You’ve paid your money – now make your choice!” And, in the lengthy and complex process of choosing, millions of Americans are demonstrating not only their ideological diversity, but also their unifying faith in the ongoing utility of the ballot-box.
 
Whether that ballot-box can any longer deliver a President equal to the challenge of representing the burgeoning diversity of the American electorate is the core question being posed by the 2016 campaign. Somehow, the populism, conservatism, idealism and pragmatism which have whipped the contest into its present state of inchoate frothiness must be settled and distilled: firstly into two candidates; and then, on 8 November, into a single individual.
 
The number of times this seemingly impossible task has actually been accomplished by the American electorate is impressive. Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt managed to keep all four balls in the air, and so did Dwight Eisenhower. Lyndon Johnson did it in 1964, as did Richard Nixon in 1972 and Ronald Reagan in 1980, and then again, even more emphatically, in 1984.
 
For all their eloquence and glamour, neither John F. Kennedy nor Barack Obama succeeded in triggering the sort of landslides granted to Johnson and Reagan. Bringing together the clamouring tribes of the American polity proved to be beyond both presidents. Although Kennedy’s assassination did engender a kind of unity – if only of shock and grief.
 
The current roilings of American politics: its vicious and uncompromising partisanship; the disquieting thought that many of the issues at stake may not be susceptible to resolution by simple majorities; have recalled for US historians the deadly politics of the decade immediately preceding the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861.
 
The historic outcome of the presidential election of 1860, which saw Abraham Lincoln elected with just 39.8 percent of the popular vote, was made possible by a fatal split in the ranks of the Democratic Party. That such a split – this time in the ranks of the Republican Party – is being openly canvassed only adds to the sense of historical déjà vu. Should Trump’s clear plurality of the Republican primary vote be discounted by the machinations of party grandees, his supporters may not go quietly into that good night of political impotence.
 
A third party challenge by Trump could throw the 2016 Presidential Election to the Democratic Party in circumstances that call into question the legitimacy of its mandate. As in 1860, it will be race and the threat it poses to the status of White Americans, that threatens not only the coherence, but also the very survival of the American republic.
 
Tomorrow’s New York Primary is worth keeping an eye on.
 
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 19 April 2016.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

The New Black Is Blue: National’s Grip On The Electorate Remains A Strong As Ever.

The Winner: Like Dorian Gray’s, National’s sins have left not the slightest blemish upon its public face. No doubt, in some upper room, safe from prying eyes, a cursed canvass portrays it’s true hideousness. So long as it stays there, securely hidden, National’s supporters simply do not care.
 
THE NATIONAL GOVERNMENT’S unprecedented run in the polls rolls on. Eight years in office and still the level of support for John Key’s ministry in the New Zealand electorate continues to fluctuate between an unassailable 45 and 55 percent.
 
These would be outstanding numbers even under the old First-Past-The-Post electoral regime. Under a proportional, multi-party system they are extraordinary. In fact, given all the things Key and his colleagues have done, or failed to do, they should be impossible.
 
And yet, like Dorian Gray’s, National’s sins have left not the slightest blemish upon its public face. No doubt, in some upper room, safe from prying eyes, a cursed canvass portrays its true hideousness. So long as it stays there, securely hidden, National’s supporters simply do not care.
 
This state of not caring – evinced by close to half the population – is something new and disturbing in New Zealand politics. It speaks of hardened attitudes and even harder hearts; of an electoral bloc that has simply shut its eyes and ears to the plight of less fortunate and hard-pressed citizens. That they have remained faithful to the Key Government for eight years is because in all sorts of subtle and not-so-subtle ways it has told them that they are right not to care. Not caring is the new black: National’s new blue.
 
It’s important to grasp the fact that this ingrained lack of compassion is in no way reflective of simple bigotry or ignorance. The new National supporter is not the sort of know-nothing backwoodsman from the provinces who hated queers and backed Springbok Tours. Confronted by the Left for their apparent lack of compassion, these new National supporters will round on their accusers and charge them with constructing a soft and dependent society critically lacking in grit and resilience. Their refusal to mollycoddle the poor and work-shy may look like cruelty, they will say, but in the long term it will be revealed for what it is – the most socially productive manifestation of true kindness.
 
That this hard-nosed approach entrenches inequality and widens the social divide is fine by them. People have always needed incentives. Big sticks for the poor. Juicy carrots for the rich. “You don’t make a poor man rich”, they insist, “by making a rich man poor.” A healthy society is one in which the poor person’s burning desire to escape his or her poverty is only equalled by the well-off person’s fear of falling into it. Those who make it into the winners’ circle need to know how hard it is to get there – and stay there.
 
This is the gospel according to John Key’s new National Party, and its capacity to attract and hold close to half the electorate is unprecedented. The professional middle-class, hitherto susceptible to the Left’s appeals for them to join it in the struggle for equality and social justice, must now be counted among the new National Party gospel’s most enthusiastic converts. The better angels to which Labour once appealed have long since been made redundant and let go.
 
Those poll numbers ain’t going to change anytime soon.
 
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Saturday, 16 April 2016.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Let Sleeping Fish Lie.

Prominent Maori Fire A Shot Across The Crown's Bow: Objections to the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary, though couched in terms of the sanctity of contract, are much more likely to be motivated by the political and constitutional implications of the Government’s unilateral action. If the Crown is permitted to arrogate unto itself the power to decide when it is obligated to negotiate with the Maori elites, and when it is not, then the growing economic and political influence of those elites will stand exposed as, at best, conditional; and, at worst, reversible.
 
WHAT HAS a Nineteenth Century Waikato village called Rangiaowhia got to do with the price of fish? As an example of Maori and Pakeha talking past one another – quite a lot. As the current impasse over the Government’s creation of a Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary, and Maori fishery rights, attests, the scope for misunderstanding, even conflict, between Maori and Pakeha remains ominously latent in New Zealand’s constitution.
 
These latent difficulties are often made worse by the well-intentioned interventions of  Pakeha New Zealanders. Historians, in particular, seem especially keen to atone for the sins of their nation’s colonial past. All too often this manifests itself in professional historians affixing an academic seal of approval to what can only be described as outlandish and historically unjustifiable claims.
 
At Rangiaowhia, for example, Maori and Pakeha clashed in a confused military encounter that ended with the deaths of ten Maori civilians and three Pakeha soldiers. Even advantaged with the far more exacting standards of the Twenty-First Century, the lawyers of today would struggle to convince a court that what happened on the morning of Saturday, 20 February 1864 was a war-crime.
 
The New Zealand History website of the Ministry of Heritage and Culture cites the judgement of historian, David Green, who rejects the notion that what happened at Rangiaowhia was ‘a premeditated massacre’, arguing instead that it was the result of ‘a breakdown of discipline among troops who had psyched themselves up to face much stronger resistance.’”
 
The Military Engagement At Rangiaowhia, Saturday, 20 February 1864
 
If “premeditated massacre” can be ruled out, then using the word "genocide" to describe the tragic loss of life at Rangiaowhia – as a senior New Zealand historian, Jock Phillips, did on the 2 April broadcast of TV3’s The Nation – is simply insupportable.
 
The nationwide furore which engulfed the former Maori Party co-leader, Tariana Turia, when she used the word “genocide” to describe the fate of Taranaki Maori – especially those forcibly evicted from the settlement of Parihaka on 5 November 1881 – should have deterred any further use of such historical hyperbole. The only recorded case of genocide in New Zealand history occurred in the Chatham Islands in 1835. Pakeha were not responsible.
 
It is, however, entirely understandable that Maori continue to avail themselves of every opportunity to paint their dispossession in the most lurid of historical hues. To recover even a small fraction of the resources seized by New Zealand’s Settler State, the tactic of inducing the maximum possible degree of Pakeha guilt and remorse is indisputably necessary – and has proved astonishingly successful.
 
Such recovery as has been made, however, could not have been accomplished without the collusion of Pakeha elites. The price of their cooperation? That the transfer of Crown resources to Maori can only be from one collection of elites to another. The result, Neo-Tribal Capitalism, has shielded the Crown from the much more radical Pan-Maori Nationalism with which it was briefly threatened in the 1980s and 90s. The Iwi Leaders Group is a much more congenial partner for the Crown than a revolutionary Maori parliament – or army.
 
Even so, the increasingly close relationship between the Crown and the corporate entities arising out of Treaty of Waitangi-based settlements, is beginning to encroach upon the freedom-of-action of elected governments. The National-led Government’s announcement of the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary, which has elicited furious protests from Te Ohu Kaimoana (the Maori Fisheries Commission) is a case in point.
 
The Commission’s objections, though couched in terms of the sanctity of contract, are much more likely to be motivated by the political and constitutional implications of the Government’s unilateral action. If the Crown is permitted to arrogate unto itself the power to decide when it is obligated to negotiate with the Maori elites, and when it is not, then the growing economic and political influence of those elites will stand exposed as, at best, conditional; and, at worst, reversible.
 
At Rangiaowhia, the contingency of the Maori people’s freedom-of-action was demonstrated with deadly force. The Kingitanga’s (Maori King Movement’s) assertion of its people’s economic and political autonomy, under the formula of two flags and one treaty, was met with the unanswerable rejoinder of fire and steel. If contemporary Maori leaders do not wish to see their hard-won partnership of elites similarly dissolved, then it might be wiser for them to acquiesce in the matter of the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary – and let sleeping fish lie.
 
This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 15 April 2016.