May 13, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Opinion: The Plight of the Pawn

3 min read

(byAnahera Herbert-Graves CEO @ Te Runanga a-Iwi o Ngati Kahu) – we came across Anahera’s korero which was posted in October 2010, but wanted to give it more play as it still rings sooooo true.

Well, here we go again. Business as usual in Aotearoa / New Zealand as the issue of sovereignty comes ever sharper into focus and closer to resolution one way or another. Unsurprisingly Ngati Kahu is at the sharp end as our Hapu continue to assert sovereign power and authority in their rohe.

Barely twelve months out from the next general election and one month past the latest local body round, were seeing and watching pawns being marshalled against Ngati Kahu; most to certain capture of one type or another, a very few to freedom, given the nature of the game in which pawns are used.

In human terms, pawns are those who are acted upon by base emotions like fear, jealousy and resentment. For a sovereign power whose legitimacy is coming under increasing question and pressure, such pawns have their uses. Certainly if the reigning majority wish to retain or shore up their hegemony in this country, now is the exact time I would expect them to be moving their pawns against Maori expressions of sovereignty.

Fearful pawns are good for generating distrust and doubt about anyone who looks, sounds, or believes differently to the majority. They say things like, If we dont watch out, well all end up speaking Chinese, or, Crown and Maori deals on the foreshore and seabed is sovereignty by stealth. A nice turn of phrase that sovereignty by stealth. It identifies sovereign Maori as untrustworthy and deserving to be attacked as a threat. Those who utter it either dont know or dont care to recall that what they fear has already happened in this country; to Maori and it was done by people who looked a lot like them, not by any Asians.

The jealous pawn is especially interesting because they are mostly from within the same group as the object of their envy. As a result they are very mixed up just like the metaphor I am about to use. A jealous pawn will invariably play the person they envy instead of the ball. They will occasionally make what, for them, is a direct tackle, like writing a letter that says, Shes a liar! But more often they will indirectly use an issue as a platform from which to snipe at the person they are jealous of by writing something like, The court case he took in our behalf was lost, so that proves he has wasted our money and time, therefore he has to go. Very rarely will such a one front up and say these things in person. For the rulers of this country, the best pawn to combat Maori assertions of sovereignty is a jealous Maori, who, forgetting the big picture in their desire to get at the one they envy, will say the things that most of us think but are too scared to say.

The saddest pawn of all is the one motivated by resentment. Only able to see what someone else has that they dont, they neglect and find no joy in their own gifts. For example, unable to ever be mana whenua, some tauiwi make a dogs breakfast of being manuwhiri.

Resentful pawns are the least useful because they dont last long as they tend to drink metaphorical poison in the expectation that the focus of their resentment will die. Sadly, for them, it doesnt work that way.

Regardless of motivation, it seems to me that both the pawns and the powers that deploy them have either forgotten or never known that Ngati Kahu has its own board and its own rules of engagement. Interestingly the Ngati Kahu board requires no pawns, just people who have the patience and integrity to do as their respective people tell them and stick at it until tikanga prevails.

Pawns can only serve those who are themselves ruled by base emotions. While they are of little use, they do have a nuisance value. But the most important thing for a pawn to realise is that, unless and until they stop being pawns, they are of zero value to themselves.

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