“Its OK–He’s Maori.”

For me the most distressing part of the video of the drunk nine year old made public a few days ago was not so much his addled state, the nonchalant comments of the other kids with him, the RTD that was supplied to him or the adult that did the supplying. Nor am I interested in whether the cameraman has some sort of agenda that motivated the video.

What bothers me most is the above remark by an older teenager who was at the skate park at the time of the incident, and who is seen on tape commenting aggressively about the videotaping (by a Pakeha) of the young drunk. The nine year old and teenager are, indeed, Maori, as were the other kids in the video.

I am not sure what to make of the comment. Was it just some stupid remark by a flippant youth? Or is there something deeper going on here? If the latter, is that more reflective of the individual teenager who said it or is there something collective at play? Is this a case of self-loathing, hopelessness, bravado or self-exemption enunciated in a simple phrase and if so, is it confined to this particular kid or that group of kids? Why would he offer such a response when confronted by a stranger remonstrating about the drunk kid?

What does his comment say about the state of NZ society, if it says anything significant at all?

I have no answers for this nor do I have the expertise on Maori issues to offer one. I would be loathe to do so in any event because all of the alternatives appear to be equally bad, so put the queries out there for readers to comment upon and debate.

17 thoughts on ““Its OK–He’s Maori.”

  1. Further sign of the moral, cultural and ethical decay that is the necessary result of living in a society on the brink of oblivion. We are taught that we do not need to care about others that the onyl thing that matters is the almighty DOLLAR. And while the politicians have their eye on the bottom line the ordinary people suffer. When will the SHEEPLE of New Zealand wake up and see the reality of economic decay and environmental devastation? Those who have the opportunity must flee but I pray for those of us who remain here because only the Buddha can save them.

  2. “Those who have the opportunity must flee but I pray for those of us who remain here because only the Buddha can save them.” I think Christian, you’d better find out more about what Buddhism.

    Here’s what the Buddha said, “So, Ananda, you must be lamps unto yourselves. Rely on yourselves, and do not rely on external help. Hold firm to the truth as a lamp and a refuge, and do not look for refuge to anything beside yourselves. A brother becomes his own lamp and refuge by continually looking on his body, feelings, perceptions, moods, and ideas in such a manner that he conquers the cravings and depressions of ordinary men and is always strenuous, self-possessed, and collected in mind. Whoever among my disciples does this, either now or when I am dead, if he is anxious to learn, will reach the summit…(Digha Nikaya 2,99-100).

    Oneself, indeed, is one’s savior, for what other savior could there be? With oneself well-controlled one obtains a savior difficult to find (Dhammapada 160).

  3. Indeed, Christian, not only is your comment not especially helpful, people have been saying for thousands of years that society is going to hell in a handbasket, on the brink of oblivion, however you want to put it. One could perhaps summarise Confucius’ entire teaching as a lament for the ethical and moral collapse of Chinese society. If only we could go back to the good old days of the Western Zhou…

    Pablo, I have no idea how your questions can be answered, knowing nothing more about the case than what I’ve seen online and having not lived in NZ for 14 years. I suspect that, as is usually the case, it’s a complex mix of personal, familial, societal and historical factors, with everything from careless teenage flippancy to the stubborn hangover of colonialism having a part to play.

  4. Chris:

    I could well be wrong but I get the sense that what he meant was “we play by different rules” or “the standard rules do not apply to us.” The question then is what is “us” and why don’t the rules apply to them?

    I also found it disturbing that the Green party co-leader Metiria Turei referred to the neighborhood where the park is located as a “decile one” area. Schools may be ranked in deciles but I am not sure that entire neighborhoods are ranked in such ways. It gave me the impression that she saw the area as hopeless, which I am sure is not the impression that she wanted to convey.

  5. From my viewpoint I see a low socio economic area equalling low self esteem in a world that constantly tells us the measure of worth is measured in dollars. I see a young Maori boy who has statistics telling him he has little chance in life. It is a comment of inevitability nothing more.

  6. Thanks Simone, for the insight.

    Could it be, given his young age (I am referring to the teenager, not the nine year old) that his sense of negative inevitability or resignation makes him equate all Maori with low socio-economic status? My initial thought was that he was equating all Maori with his particular circumstances, neighborhood or wider social circles, but your point makes me wonder if he simply equates being poor and lacking in life opportunities with being Maori (i.e., he sees poverty as race-based rather than socio-economic). I still remain puzzled about the “Its OK” remark, unless that was simply a linguistic deflection in the face of a stranger’s judgement.

  7. It seems to be a repeated scheme here that ‘its the folly of the All Mighty Dollar “constantly tells us the measure of worth is measured in dollars”. The dollar is a measure; a person is the appraiser. If you don’t like the appraisal, you don’t have to accept it. Of course that speaks to the education system and parenting, and that says something about societal values, govt policy and the global context. That global context is blanket abuse of fiscal/monetary spending by govts and a historic legacy of tyranny in the third world which has suddenly released a lot of labour with liberalisation. Conditions are great in Asia, as well as for skilled NZ’ers, Australians and Americans. Its the unskilled people who are being left behind. The problem was poor policy in the 1960s and 1970s. The price is being paid today with the resulting ‘statist imbalances’ and tired old ‘deluded representative democracy’ proscriptions.

  8. Andrew:

    In a weird way your comment mirrors Christian’s. The focus on meta-analytic factors (rightly or wrongly, and as positive or negative factors) seems overgeneralized and does not address the meso- and micro-level structure of opportunities that impinge on the world view of this particular young man, which may or may not be shared by a wider circle of Maori. Blaming the plight of this fellow on the failed polices of the 60s and 70s seems a bit of a stretch, and the remark about “tired old deluded representative democracy proscriptions” does not make sense (e.g. what proscriptions? What is being outlawed or prohibited? Did you mean prescriptions?)

    Christian: I am not sure what may have happened but the likely explanation is that you comments got sent to the spam bin. Since we get 3000-5000 spams daily I empty the folder two-three times per day without reading through them, so may have inadvertently deleted them doing so. If so, then the dark forces are the over zealous spam detector and me as its unwitting accomplice.

  9. What can I say Pablo, its a ‘general problem’, ‘unskilled’. That levels open entirely solutions which might entertain the nature of the skills deficit, be it low self-esteem, lack of degree, lack of intellectual efficacy, ethical dilemmas, whether Maori or non-Maori. It would be unrealistic to expect me to address all that in a 2-paragraph reply. Yes, I could look back further to Roman times, but that entertains the same problem. How can I address the specifics of this child when I don’t know his context. All I am to know is that ‘he’s drunk’.

  10. Andrew:

    The person I am focused on is not the drunk kid but the older kid who made the comment in the title. It is his world view that I am concerned about and I do not think that it is reducible to macro-level conditions or his likely being unskilled. There surely are intervening variables at play that brought forth this specific manifestation of alienation, which is why I am curious as to what they might be.

  11. If only it were somehow possible to communicate with these natives & find out what they were thinking,if they think. They’re unfathomable…

    Think I can translate. It means, mind your own business. Go back to England.

  12. I don’t see it as a Maori thing. I see it as a father/boy thing. If boys don’t have active fathers things go sad. I could be wrong about these kids but I think not.

  13. Thanks Foh, that was very useful.

    Paul: The kid said “Its OK–he’s Maori” not “Its OK–he’s fatherless” or “his father is a dick.” Unless you read into his statement that all Maori have absent dads, then I do not think it is a father/boy thing (although can be part of whatever syndrome is being exhibited here, if any).

  14. A fact of life in NZ society is that there are two types of people. One type are those that recognise that they have to work to have a reasonable life. Work doesnt only mean work for a wage, but can mean lots of things.
    And then there are those who dont share this vision. For a whole range of reasons they basically dont give a rats arse about regular work habbits.
    Unfortunately there are a large proportion of maori in this category. There are many reasons – drop dead parents, a cultural attitude that doesnt regard this state of affairs as wrong, ‘Wet behind the ears’ liberals who forgive this situation by claiming that colonialists have caused it all, a belief that treaty claims will solve it all – and it wont – thus giving rise to a negative attitude when people find this out.

    Apirama Ngata predicted that welfare would be the ruination of his race – and hes been proven right.
    Those children at the skate park were the offspring of parents and family who dont work, dont give a toss responsibility and so on.

    And people like me are tired of being told its ‘societies’ problem. It aint – its a lack of maori leadership.

    Non maori society has a much higher level of understanding that effort and work and family ties that are real (and not just symbolic) are important – and these people look at the maori underclass and shrug their shoulders. This is because the only way the improve things is from within maori.

  15. Hi barry, you are sort of right. There are however 3 types of people. The bottom people dont give a rats arse, the lives of the 2nd tier of bottom people actually did give a ratsarse, however due to alienation at school, being told they are stupid, dont bother doing that its to hard etc, they gave up and now clean your childrens toilets at school, or pick your rubbish up off the curb every week. The middle ones are the ones that the rules applying to the bottom lot, didnt apply to them, the ones at the top, the golden ones, are the rule makers, rule breakers, the money holders, the money takers, they are the ones that make or break a country. What makes me sad is after 170+ years the conqueror s are still scratching their heads in bewilderment over the same maori problem. Things cannot improve
    within maori without sustained support from the very people creating the problems. To suggest anything else is a cop out.
    this maori boy is what i see within my wider whanau. He has already stepped away from living the white dream and probably his only dream now is to have a good dinner and have a good nights sleep without anybody in his home fighting after to much drinking :(

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *