The scenic beauty of New Zealand is unparalleled. A flick through the travel brochures by foreigners leaves them with the impression that we live in heaven on earth. Don't believe it. For many of our women and children their existence is hell on earth. They are the victims of family violence and sexual abuse that has reached epidemic proportions.
Our small country, just under four million people, is shaken month by month by the killing of a child who, over a long period, was subjected to unbelievable cruelty perpetrated by either a man or woman in a dysfunctional relationship. Very often children are killed despite prior intervention by official welfare agencies. Refuges cannot cope with the ever-increasing number of women desperate to take themselves and their children away from violent men.
"Indigenous" Maori men feature disproportionately, and by a wide margin, in the statistics of violent crime. Almost half the jail population consists of these men who are from a minority group representing around twelve per cent of the population.
Maori radicals and their white left-liberal apologists tell us that the shameful figures are due to "post-colonial traumatic stress disorder" resulting from colonization and the white man's rotten system based on subjugation and poverty. This garbage is used to hide failed left-liberal policies. It runs counter to their socialist ideals to acknowledge the damage done by of a lack of family values, bad attitudes towards education, years of welfare dependency, racist affirmative action and other special treatment programs, the destruction of initiative and enterprise, and the discouragement of personal responsibility.
Mainstream Maori leadership adopts a head in the sand approach to male violence, pretending that the problem does not exist, just like a hopeless alcoholic in denial, and we know where that leads.
As a nation we are now reaping what we sowed. Politicians decided to pander to a stone-age culture and encouraged its renaissance at the expense of values and inheritances that built a hitherto strong and vibrant country. The result; national pride and identity are in limbo as soured race relations tear the country apart. The flag is hardly flown anymore. Patriotism is almost non-existent, its threadbare remnants acknowledged by the performing of a male-oriented Maori dance called the "haka", the invention of a cannibal chief.
"The threatening body stances of the haka, the fearsome intent of the facial expressions, the aggressive gestures of the fists, accompanied by shouted verbal commands, all form part of a violent act and physical confrontation with an intent to frighten and intimidate an adversary". These are not my words but those of a Maori writer who spoke out recently, sickened by the violence towards children.
The bare-chested war-like warrior image is promoted to the rest of the world, mainly by the government, as a vital part of Maori culture. Our courageous Maori writer asked,"Who is brave enough to state that the aggression, the violence, the threats, the physical intimidation and the nature and the purpose of the haka do not play a significant role in the way we harm and disrespect our children?"
Little tots at Maori language schools are taught the haka, as are boys in government schools. Whenever our United Nations sponsored peacekeeping soldiers in East Timor are shown on government television they are seen, incongruously, performing the war-like haka. What message does this send to the "antagonists" on the other side of the fence? Is it in the true spirit of United Nations peacekeeping? National sporting teams take this stuff off shore. Maoris perform the haka in Parliament when they get a favorable decision. If aggrieved by a Court decision they do the haka. It has been politicized and at times of protest is no more than an exercise in race baiting.
An integral part of the warrior image is the wielding of a long hardwood club designed to kill, called the "taiaha". It's unbelievable, but our softheaded prison service officials have taken "taiaha" training in to jails. As their psychobabble tells us, it is a method "by which Maori offenders are introduced to the cultural values which underpin the behavioral and attitudinal changes that are necessary to reduce re-offending by Maoris". What does this program do for anger management in the ill-educated and the ill-disciplined?.
There are signs that the tourism industry is backing away from promoting the warrior image because it is felt it is not as marketable as first thought.
When foreign diplomats present their credentials to the Head of State they are confronted by a "taiaha" wielding bare-chested Maori warrior with ferocious facial expressions, heightened by protruding glaring eyes, a protruding tongue and the uttering of a weird challenging cry. Many of my countrymen find this particular cultural intrusion offensive and against the spirit of diplomacy.
If George Bush wins the presidential election he will undoubtedly replace Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun with one of his own. The new ambassador would do this country a service by refusing to take part in the warrior challenge when presenting his credentials. Furthermore, the new ambassador should lobby the entire diplomatic corps to do likewise.
This international action against New Zealand could be all that is needed for our government to stop glorifying violence in the name of culture. That would be a positive step in the campaign to stop the violence against defenseless children.
September 2, 2000
Colin Robertson, a former officer of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, is a businessman and writer. He is working on a book on New Zealand’s race relations industry.