I have a buddy who prides himself on sense-checking every societal norm – no matter how much that sense-checking departs from his being politically correct. He delights in railing against what he sees as the dragging of society into some kind of left-leaning wokehood where people are (in his view) reluctant to say what they feel for fear of being ostracized. I’m often at pains to remind him that he’s a white, middle-aged male who had the good fortune of being born into a good family with all the privilege that entailed. Good education? Check. A decades-long career as an IT worker? Check. My mate has certainly worked hard, but his success has, at least in some part, been made easier due to his privilege.

My buddy is a good yardstick by which to assess things I say and do. We disagree much of the time, but in my view it’s far better to have open dialogue about those points of tension than to simply believe that everyone is on the same page. As an aside, it strikes me that the current situation viz a vis Covid vaccination is a perfect example of two sides shouting at each other but not really listening – it was eye opening to spend a few hours at the recent parliament protests (before they turned into a riot) to get a sense of the view of the “other side.” My friend is a good example of the old adage that good people can have some opinions which aren’t quite so good – he’s an awesome, caring chap but, on a few issues he is (from my own biased perspective) misguided.

Anyway, it’s worth giving this context for readers. While the old constructs of left and right don’t really work so well anymore, they are an easy (albeit lazy) fall back option when labelling people. I’m all over the place on the political spectrum – in some areas I guess I’d be pigeonholed as right of centre, while in others I’m seemingly left. When it comes to recognizing Māori history and culture in New Zealand, however, my views are both simple and clear. For me it’s not a political decision to embrace te reo and tikanga Māori, it’s just simply the right thing to do. It’s also actually pretty fun.

I’m of a generation that has had the opportunity to live through a blossoming of cultural awareness. I grew up in Tawa in the 70s. At that time, Tawa was probably the whitest, most middle-class and least open to the “other” of any suburb in New Zealand. Saying that, the New Zealand of that time was only just starting to realize its obligation to recognize and embrace its Māori heritage. In the decades since then, we have as a nation embraced our shared history. While it’s been, and continues to be at time, a difficult journey, and we are probably only in the first stages of that journey, we have come a long way in a few short years.

I was thinking about this journey recently when taking part in a professional development course. As is the usual approach to these things, the first item in the morning was to go around the room and have everyone introduce themselves to everyone else. What was fascinating was to see the range of formats those introductions took within the context of our increasingly Māori-cognizant society.

For context, this was a room of super smart people (your humble correspondent notwithstanding) – people who understand the social and political climate and who are sufficiently well versed in our country’s history to get our obligations under te tiriti.

What surprised me was the small number of people who too the opportunity to say a few words in te reo. It would be hard to live in New Zealand today and not be able to say at least a few words of te reo – maybe a friendly “morena” in the morning. Perhaps a “tena koe e te whare” to make people feel welcome. or, for those who want to pay respect to what is (in my view) a beautiful way of grounding oneself in one’s place, people and history, perhaps a pepeha that recognizes ones maunga, awa, iwi or whanau.

It’s not a case of being “right on” and neither is it signaling some degree of virtue. It’s simply a great way to broaden ones horizons, pay respect to a language and culture, and provide a little bit of balance to an, at times dark, history in our country.

Ben Kepes is a Canterbury-based entrepreneur and professional board member. Maukatere is well and truly the maunga he feels connected to.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

  • Your article holds ~My mate has certainly worked hard, but his success has, at least in some part, been made easier due to his privilege~

    Are you saying ~we should not inherit privilege from our parents~ In which case what the hell did our parents work hard for?

    Every generation, that pays attention, inherits from the previous generation. I agree with your mate, your position if just PC woke hysteria.

  • Speaking for myself, by genetics I am part Maori. by worldview I am European.

    The success of European society is multi generational in nature, Many people contributed to our success including a number unknown to us. The failure of Maori society is also multi generational in nature. Many people contributed to that failure, including numerous people unknown to them. NONE OF US SUCCEED WHOLLY ON OUR OWN. Success requires whole societal support.

    I do not see that peoples ability to speak a few words in Maori, changes anything other than ~cosmetics~

  • Ken Maynard. |

    Civilization is a strange construct. It FIRST requires, the installation of institutionalized human compassion, installed in the west, by the Christian Church almost 2,000 years ago; & SECONDLY requires we master science & technology which we have recently done.

    If Putin wins his war to destroy civilizations that surround Russia & influence it, he will LOSE! Russia will degenerate to a high technology Stone Age society; civilization cannot stand on technological accomplishment alone.

    Whether the woke humanism of the modern age is needed or a ~bridge too far~ in the business of humanities has yet to be proven. If civilization is to be maintained, that its humanities base MUST EXPAND ahead of its technology base is certain. Yet just ~how far~ can this extend without becoming self defeating?

    Likewise Maori society has only known civilization for a mere century or so; while a humanities base must be at least five centuries deep, to be ~deeply rooted~ enough to stand in all conditions. This proposed co governance concept can only result in Maori looting, burning & preying on the civilized; this is particularly so given Maori’s deep hatred of all things European, Their primal indigenous culture of endless tribal warfare plus cannibalism would not be able to rebuild civilization once destroyed. Yet they will ultimately get co governance, as now it is on the table some political party seeking immediate power will give it to them. IF THEY WIN IT, THEY TOO WILL LOSE.

    When such occurs, it will not sit well with my family who have been here since 1865 constantly striving for a higher civilization. All I will be able to do, is counsel my children, grandchildren & my great grandchildren to ~leave~ to pursue building a more sustainable civilization elsewhere. In doing so they need give little thought to us oldies left behind as this abomination happened on OUR WATCH so we will get what we deserve.

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