On Being Pakeha: Some Thoughts Of a New Zealander

For Kapiti U3A, August 11, 2005

Keywords: Literature & Culture; Maori; Political Economy & History;

This paper begins with a little about my experience of growing up a Pakeha New Zealander. Although I dont think there is much of interest in me, it is perhaps worth noting that most of us have similarly conventional histories. I will then talk about my relationship with the Maori, and try to draw a few useful conclusions. I will finish with a discussion on nationalism and being a New Zealander, which is the topic I am currently working on in the context of my Marsden Research Grant on globalisation.

Growing Up in Christchurch

The Christchurch where I was born and grew up was said to be the most English of our cities. Certainly I grew up in an Anglophilic environment. My secondary school was, and yet it was also proudly New Zealand. Perhaps it belonged to the Jamie Bellich’s ‘Better Britain’ strand of nationalism, which I shall talk about.

My father was not particularly an Anglophile. His descent roots were Irish and English, but went back to the mid nineteenth century, so he gave no sense of being of British origin. He thought himself a New Zealander.

My mother was born in Yorkshire, but came out here before she was two. Obviously her mother was Anglophilic, but I have not a sense Mum was, except she drew upon English traditions. So did I, because most of the books I read were from it, although there were a scattering of American books and translation from other languages. I was not a film buff, so Hollywood or the America it portrayed hardly impacted. The big gap was New Zealand based books. They hardly existed.

I remember walking through the New Forest’ – you will recall it was new when William Conqueror created it, and yes my OE was based in England – and thinking how familiar it was from my reading, but also how alien it was to the New Zealand bush which was familiar to me.

Indeed, I was struck that England was it was not very like Christchurch. I suppose one New Zealand city had to be more like England than the rest, so perhaps Christchurch deserved the claim. But the fit was not close. I do recall coming down the hill into Salisbury and seeing this tiny little town dominated by its cathedral, and thinking ‘that’s what Christchurch looked like 80 years ago’.

Perhaps it was not, but the thought gave me the realisation that while we may contest the expression ‘Mother England’, insofar as it was true, mother is the England of the nineteenth century from which were are descended. But England of today is also descended from that nineteenth century mother. New Zealand’s relationship with today’s England is as a sister or cousin, not Mother England and daughter New Zealand.

I was also struck by the heterogeneity of Britain. It was not just that I met Celts – Irish, Scots, and Welsh – who distinguish themselves from the English. So did those from the ‘provinces’ such as Yorkshire. My impression is that the ‘Home’ Counties elite did not comprehend this distinction. Arguably the English provinces are the last colonies of London.

Such fragmentation makes a mockery of the notion of a New Zealand biculturalism, even ignoring our vibrant Asians and Pacific Island communities. Those from European stock come from many different, but related cultures (as do Asians and Pacific Islanders). To lump them all into a single one is both misleading and misses out on the richness of the heritage. It is not just treating the Celts and English provincials as if they were Londoners. What about the Dutch and the Germans and the Hungarians and the Italians and the Jews and the Scandinavians (in all their nuances)? Ours is a multicultural society.

Differences within nation-states are vital to the understanding of the notion of a nation New Zealand’s population is too small and too mobile to have such significant regional differences as exist between London and other parts of Britain. Yet I am not unaware of the Christchurch perspective of the imperialism of Wellington, while there are political and literary tensions between Wellington and Auckland. And there is the town-country divide. So regional differences are here too.

Growing up with Maori

The most obvious difference in the public rhetoric is between the Maori and the non-Maori. There were very few Maori in the Christchurch I grew up in. The 1956 Census reports 851 or .4 percent of the total Christchurch population. This was partly because only a sixth (16.6 percent) of Maori lived in the 15 largest urban areas – they were then primarily a rural people. Moreover, inter-Maori warfare had devastated the South Island population, especially around Christchurch. (There are also definitional problems to which I shall return.) Christchurch ranked 9th of the urban areas by Maori numbers, which may have been the reason it was said to be so English when it is obviously not

Inevitably then, I grew up knowing very few Maori. There was only one family I recall at my high school of 1000 students. Neither of my parents were racist. I learned from Dad to take people as they are. From Mum, a feminist in word and deed, I learned not only to empathise with women’s distinctive needs, but to respect that other groups may have distinctive needs too.

My engagement with Maori really began in a short time in Wellington between growing up in Christchurch and my OE. It was not just that Wellington had the second largest urbanised Maori population. Although I dont recall it, the 1960 ‘No Maori, No Tour’ campaign had raised issues about New Zealand’s treatment of Maori as well as its relation with the outside world. We debated intensely the Hunn Report on the future of the Maori. A key element of that environment was the Wellington Teachers’ College which, was promoting Maori Studies in all its diversity. Universities did not get into Maori Studies until a decade and more later.

It was during that Wellington period I became conscious of the Maori as a policy issue. I remember explaining to a student seminar in Britain, the difference between assimilation and integration, a distinction central in the post-Hunn report debate. There was incomprehension: the British student view was the West Indians and Asians had come to Britain and would assimilate on British terms. There was no sense that their different cultures would enhance British life.

I recall being particularly shocked at the response, because at school I had written an essay about the English language which celebrated its many various origins, its ability to incorporate new words from other languages, and its adaptability. The student incomprehension seemed to deny that history. (I would not expect the same response today. Britain was going through a very difficult introspective phase in the post-colonial days of the 1960s.)

The OE increased my understanding of my nationalism. I learned that New Zealand was not a Better Britain, and could never be. But how to describe ourselves and the path we were travelling? What did it mean? What were the differences which made us distinctive from anywhere else? I was a New Zealander like Dad. It was deep inside me, at the centre of my being. What he lacked, and I lacked at the time, was how to articulate this.

I returned from Britain aware that included in our distinctiveness was our natural environment. I added our history and our values, and the way we do things. But by this time I also knew that the Maori was an integral part of New Zealand’s distinctiveness. Indeed we gave each of our children a Maori name (as well as a Scandinavian name, for they are of part Danish origin on their mother’s side) .

The Christchurch I returned to in 1970 had a larger Maori population. The 1976 Population Census records 6579 in the urban area, an eightfold increase in two decades. This partly reflected the growth of population and the urbanisation of the Maori – the proportion living in the main urban areas had doubled in the twenty years. Even so, Christchurch had only 2.2 percent of its population Maori – that is up five times – so while I was meeting more, there will still not a lot of Maori in my life. But I was engaging with them as I studied my country’s history and society.

Defining Maori and Pakeha

At that time my main research was the income distribution. I investigated the Maori/Non-Maori contrast, as I did for a number of others different groups in society such as men and women. Contrasts are important social science research methods, but I was also characterising the Maori in their own right. It is conventional to do so today, but in the 1970s, this was one of the first comprehensive quantitative analyses of the Maori in the economy.

One thing I learned was how treacherous the ethnic definitions are. Different data sources use different definitions of the Maori. Even more frustratingly the same survey over time may use different definitions. This is particularly true for the Population Census.

Today the Population Census asks for each respondent’s ethnicity, but does not set down a definition. Unlike many of its questions – such as one’s gender – the response to ethnicity is inherently subjective.

The Census also asks whether the respondent is of Maori descent (yes or no) – the only group whose descent is surveyed. Responses are used for determining the number of Maori electorates – law needs an objective criteria. However the statistics use the ethnicity responses. since there is no information about others’ descent. Analysis shows that there are people of Maori descent who do not say they are of Maori ethnicity, and people of Maori ethnicity who are not of Maori descent.

Many census respondents put down more than one ethnicity. The commonest statistical practice is to classify everyone who report Maori ethnicity as being Maori. That means people who think of themselves as Pakeha, but also ticks the Maori box, are classed as Maori. This practice of prioritisation can be misleading , in a sense overestimating the Maoriness of our population. As a friend said, ‘I think of myself as a New Zealander – Pakeha if anything. But when I’m on the Marae I’m proud of my Maori ancestry, and I’m a Maori there.’

He was, no doubt, one of the 44.0 percent of those who told the census they were Maori but also mentioned some other ethnicity. This is the highest proportion of multi-ethnicity of all the cultural groups. As a result 14.7 percent of respondents said they were Maori in the 2001 Census, but 91.8 percent gave a non-Maori ethnicity.

There is a tendency in the public rhetoric to divide us into Maoriand non-Maori. But what the statistics shows is that there is no rigid line. Ethnicity in New Zealand is much more complex than the ‘either-or’, or a single statistic.

That almost half of those we define as Maori have a richer view of themselves indicates there is considerable diversity within Maoridom, just as there is considerable diversity within any other half a million New Zealanders. To treat all Maori as exactly the same is a form of racism, akin to the thinking which underpinned apartheid. And yet how often we do that?

One of the worst perpetrators is the media, who are inclined to present one Maori as a spokesperson for all Maori. If we treat Maoridom as a unity, then we treat this Maori view as representing the Maori consensus. When the unrepresentative view is extreme, misunderstandings are heightened.

When we give Maori ethnicity priority, we find 72.8 percent of the population are classed as European in 2001. But 80.0 percent gave European as at least one of the ethnicities.

‘European’? I’m afraid that is how the Census asks us to categorise ourselves, and how it reclassifies those of us who cross the word out and write ‘Pakeha’. Statistics New Zealand recognises ‘NZ European/Pakeha’ in some of its reports. I look forward to the day, when ‘Pakeha’ is a formal census ethnicity. I am proud of my European heritage. But it just does not describe my ethnicity. I willingly adopt the term ‘Pakeha’. I am proud that New Zealand calls its oldest indigenous people by the name they gave themselves ‘the Maori’ – the ordinary people. It differs from the first people named in other new settlements – Aboriginal in Australia, Indian in North America.

We can simply reduce the misleading nature of prioritisation rule by introducing a new ethnic group, Maori-Pakeha, those who claim both ethnicities. The statistical record would have 73 percent of us Pakeha, 9 percent Maori, 6 percent Maori-Pakeha, Asian or Pacific Island, and slightly less than 1 percent other. More important, the newly defined would remind us of the ambiguities which underpin our ethnicities.

There was a Maori extremist who wanted to send everybody back to where they come from, although this is not a widely held Maori perspective. One Pakeha cartoonist had the Maori paddling their canoes back to Pacific Islands. That is a nonsense. The Maori did not come from the Pacific Islands, or China, or Africa. Their ancestors did. But they evolved into Maori here. New Zealand is where the Maori comes from.

And that applies to me too. I have European ancestry but my people have evolved into the Pakeha here in New Zealand. If I have to be sent anywhere, it is back to Christchurch – that is where I was born and grew up. That is my turangawaewae, the place where I stand.

There wis no precise date when my European ancestors became Pakeha, any more than there is one when the Pacific Island settlers became Maori. I use the convention of calling the nineteenth century settlers ‘European’, preserving the term ‘Pakeha’ for the twentieth century. This reflects that towards the end of the nineteenth century the European political economy transformed from being dominated by an unsustainable quarry into a sustainable settlement. But there is no exact date when that happened.

Transformation is crucial, not only in the past. Both Maori and Pakeha have continued to evolve. I am irritated by those who say that Maori fishing should be confined to the technologies they had in 1840. Logically that would fossilise the Pakeha into the mid nineteenth century too. I celebrate the way that Maori society has responded to new circumstances in creative ways. The theme of Giuseppe Tomasi’s novel The Leopard is ‘If we want things to stay as they are, things have to change’. The paradox summarises the attitude we all must adopt. The survival of Maoridom in the face of great external pressures is a tribute to their application of this wisdom.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi

There is a view that ‘Pakeha’ is a swear word. There is no scholarly evidence for such a derivation. We are not sure where the word ‘Pakeha’ comes from, but it is used to describe the non-Maori in the treaty signed at Waitangi. Were in 1840 ‘Pakeha’ uncouth, Henry Williams, the missionary who translated the drafts into Maori, would not have used it. And since New Zealand’s foundation document uses that word for those who were not Maori, I am happy to use the expression ‘Pakeha’ for myself.

I have written a scholarly article on that treaty, which points out that the so-called English version did not exist on the treaty grounds on the 6th February 1840, so it was not agreed to by the Maori. The English version is based upon drafts were translated by Williams into Maori, and then subsequently changed following the debate on the 5th. Whether this is important or not, I am unsure. But I am sure that we should be as historically accurate as possible on such matters.

My view is that Te Tiriti o Waitangi is not fundamentally important to the Maori. Their claims would be just as justified if there was no such treaty, and we would still have to go about remedying past wrongs.

Indeed strictly Te Tiriti does not address the high levels of material deprivation and poor health among the Maori. That is something else we need to be concerned with. Certainly the treaty has contributed to the framework to resolve the Maori claims, but had it not existed we still be obliged to deal with them. I like the wisdom, ‘I do not believe in collective guilty, but I do believe in collective responsibility’. I am not guilty for my nation’s past, but I am responsible for remedying its past injustices.

The Tiriti is important though, to the Pakeha. It is the foundation document for the governance of the New Zealand nation-state, a social contract in which the inhabitants establish an institution with the power of kawantanaga – of government – but reserve for individuals and their agencies the maximum of civil rights, including property rights – rangatiratanga. Anyone who joins the inhabitants of this nation is bound by that agreement. It is hard to think of better brief statement of the foundation of a nation. We are not here by right of conquest nor is New Zealand founded upon one.

Owing Only Your Best

I have written on my work with the Maori elsewhere. Today I want to say a little about my attitude to it, especially as many people of goodwill let themselves – and the Maori – down, by ignoring the key principle: ‘You owe them only your best.’ It is very easy to simply agree with the Maori when one knows what is being agreed to is either poorer quality than the best or wrong, or by not bothering to test the proposition.

Every day I observe examples of Pakeha articulating Maori rhetoric which is weak or even wrong. Often they know little about the topic, but seem to think if a Maori says it, it must be true. Hence my warning of the diversity within Maoridom. Agreeing with one Maori may leave the person of goodwill looking foolish. But more fundamentally, uncritically and invariably agreeing with a Maori is as racist as to uncritically and invariably disagreeing. I give just three examples.

The Myth of the Great Fleet

The first example is the myth of the Great Fleet of seven canoes which sailed from central Polynesia to New Zealand. Many Maori believe this, as do many non-Maori. Scholars – Maori and non-Maori – have known for many years that the story is a European construct, due to Sir Percy Smith, who was trying to systematise the reported Maori oral traditions. Today scholars know Smith’s synthesis was wrong.

You might say ‘it does not matter, leave the Maori to their ignorance’. But I certainly do not one day have a young Maori claiming that I, among others, tricked them by maintaining this falsehood. Moreover, out of the myth of the Great Fleet has come the notion there were people here before the canoes arrived. There is a popular view that these people were not Polynesians, but Melanesians who were conquered by the Maori. Some go on to draw the conclusion that since the Maori conquered the Melanesians, that justifies Europeans conquering Maori. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever for this fantasy.,

Scholars are certain that Pacific Islanders sailed from central Polynesia to New Zealand, but almost certainly not in a great fleet as in the myth would have it. There were no other people in New Zealand when the Polynesians arrived,. Scholars think that the oral migration traditions probably refer to actual events, albeit ones lost in time: they may refer to migrations within New Zealand. Nor does scholarship anywhere undermine the notion that the iwi of New Zealand were loose confederations, with the name of waka. It just seems unlikely they were the vessels which brought the first Pacific Islanders here.

Let me share another concern about the myth of the Great Fleet. I am in complete agreement that we should have a Maori name for our country as well as the traditional European one of ‘New Zealand’. I hesitate over ‘Aotearoa’, which is not the Maori name for these islands when Europeans arrived, but comes from the myth of the canoes. There appears to have been no universal Maori name for what we call New Zealand. Te Tiriti O Waitangi refers to Niu Tireni. Apparently that name persisted among Maori through to at least the 1860s.

Myths are important to a nation. They are the narratives which a people relate to give a sense of where they come from, where they are, and where they are going. Myths are not inherently false. Even if much of the content of a myth does not meet the scientific criterion of truth, it contains an emotional veracity. But to be sustainable its factual underpinnings need to be true. I am all for myths about New Zealand – or for any nation – but let’s get the facts that carry them right.

So I have no problem if we all agree that the story of Aotearoa is a European construct, but nevertheless use it as the Maori name for New Zealand. But that is a very different approach to people of goodwill who seize upon the name because it is a Maori one without any awareness of its true origin. That is just political correctness.

I have gone to some length to discuss this myth. I deal with the other two examples more briefly.

Poverty in New Zealand

More than 80 percent of the poor in New Zealand are children and their parents. The majority of those poor are of Pakeha/New Zealand ethnicity. Poverty is not a particularly Maori phenomenon. It is true that an individual Maori is more likely to be poor than the individual non-Maori, but in total number there are more of the non-Maori poor because there are more non-Maori.

Confusing poverty with Maoriness leads to faulty analysis. Poverty cannot be caused by race if it is widespread in the majority. Such a confusion leads to poor quality policy. It may result in targeting rich Maori as well as poor ones, and failing to target poor non-Maori.

The confusion, and its various relatives, has been socially divisive. A public rhetoric which closely associates Maori with the poor, is not only misleading. It also leaves the poor non-Maori feeling excluded, an exclusion which is a seedbed for racial antagonism. The public’s response to Don Brash’s Orewa speech of 2004 reflected those feelings of exclusion.

In the long run, exaggerations are of no benefit to the Maori either. Not only do they add to communal tensions, but they distort the way we think of things. To repeat, public rhetoric needs to be consistent with the reality, and not distort it.

Te Wananga o Aotearoa

Such a distortion occurred when Te Wananga o Aotearoa came under investigation. To many people treated it as if it were solely a Maori institution, and imposed their judgements about Maori on it. I do not know anything more than what has been published in the papers, but lLet me offer a different perspective, using business theory.

Te Wananga was a rapidly growing business. If it had increased at the same rate over the next six years as it did over the last six, almost every New Zealander would have been enrolled with it. That absurdity it tells us that the rapid growth phase was over, and the institution would become a mature business with slow growth, or stagnation, or even some decline, given that some of the client base have now got the qualifications they required.

Business theory tells us that the transition from rapid grower to mature operation is a difficult one, because various funding and investments mechanisms which are favoured by rapid growth, no longer work. It is also not unusual for such rapidly growing businesses to have poor internal management which has to be systematised and consolidated at the maturity phase. It is not unusual for businesses at this stage to crash, to be taken over, or to require a complete reconstruction of their management.

Does that not sound like what is happening to the wananga? One does not have to analyses the circumstances of the wananga in racial terms – be it that a Maori cant run a business, or that the anti-Maori are destroying a successful business. Maori business are subject to the same laws of business behaviour as are non-Maori businesses.

We too easily impose a racial framework over phenomenon, because we are too lazy to think about things carefully. Racism, be it unthinking pro-Maori or unthinking anti-Maori, is the easy option. The Maori deserve better from us.

It’s ironic isnt it, that the lazy will say that what I am arguing is racist? It cant be true for my analysis is with the greatest respect of the Maori in their diversity, their needs, their wrongful treatment in the past, and in the belief they have much to offer us all. I give them my best.

Of course this laziness is not exclusive to our thinking about Maori matters. Too often we are lazy about other public issues, following the herd, rather than trying to think things through. We allow others to think for us, replicating their inferior arguments as our own, rather than demanding higher standards. I am allowed to say such things at a University of the Third Age. Anywhere else I would be condemned as an intellectual.

Thinking about Nationalism

Even were there no Maori, we would still face a challenge of the meaning of being a New Zealander. Thinking about nationalism in New Zealand requires an international context. A key element I have learned from studying New Zealand is that we are shaped by the world outside, and our response to those pressures. New Zealanders cant be insular. So what meaning can we give living into this distant outpost of a bustling world?

I am working on a book about globalisation – informed by New Zealand but not exclusively about it. The book explores two key elements of political and social aspects of globalisation: policy convergence and cultural convergence. Policy convergence is the possibility that globalisation will force all nation-states to adopt the same policies: cultural convergence is that we will all end up culturally the same. My tentative conclusion is that there is an inevitable convergence in some policy areas but not others, while any cultural convergence from globalisation is very slow and probably subject to sufficient local shocks to stall the convergence forever.

Globalisation analysis has to be predicated on some notion of the nation and the nation-state. Curiously, while we talk about them as kind of eternal, they are actually very recent. Nationalism, in its popular sense, first becomes a vigorous phenomenon in the nineteenth century. Intellectually it arose with the Enlightenment and its rejection of traditional notions such as defining community by one’s religion. Popularly, the sharp reductions in the costs of distance that were occurring then (particularly from the railroad and mass media), together with the resulting increase in mobility, meant that Europeans had to shift from a village perspective to a wider regional one.

The English experience of nationalism seems unique, one might say anachronistic, for it was very early in the nationalism stakes because of its reasonably secure boundaries. Shakespeare’s Henry V, with the battle cry ‘God for Harry, England and St George’, is in part a response to the threat of the Spanish Armada, although even here the nationalistic demand includes loyalty to a person and to a religion. However most European (and American) nationalism arose a couple of hundred years later. Elsewhere it often began in the twentieth century.

Only a handful of today’s nation states were broadly in their present form a 150 years ago. That includes New Zealand, which had a self government in 1852 which has a continuously evolved to today’s governance, and whose boundaries have remained largely the same. Using this not very rigorous criteria the other of today’s nation-states in Europe which were there in 1855 are Belgium, France (probably), Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal Spain, and Switzerland, but not the United Kingdom which lost Ireland in 1920. On the America continent there is possibly the United States, although it was still expanding west, six central American republics including Mexico but no Carribean ones; and Argentina, and Uruguay, for all the other South American states have since had significant boundary changes. The only Asian states to meet the criteria may be Afghanistan, Iran and Japan. There are no African states and Australia did not federate until 1901. Most of the world was not covered by today’s nation-states. They are not eternal.

Now if the nation-state is such a recent phenomenon, despite the rhetoric of permanency, can we expect them to still exist in another 150 years? The answer depends on what we mean by nation-state and how it might evolve. However commerce requires legal jurisdictions and social order requires polices, so these may still have to be supplied in localities. Undoubtedly a whole range of activities which we associate with nation-states will no longer be under their control. I’m betting that includes restricting goods and services at the border except for special reasons such a phyto-sanitary, terrorist and (possibly) cultural ones. I expect capital to be largely mobile, except possibly hot money movements (although any restrictions will have to be internationally imposed). But there may not be major increases in labour mobility.

Crucially nationalism involves contrasting those within the (putative) nation-state with those outside. As students in the 1960s, we used to say ‘I am a citizen of the world’. Overseas I was irritated to be categorised as an Australian, Canadian, a Rhodesian or wherever. (The Australian confusion led to my retort that there was the same distance between Wellington and Canberra as between London and Moscow and they would appreciate that I could not tell the difference between an Englishman and a Russian.) It was this need to identify myself which meant it was overseas I learned I was a New Zealander, and that I needed to be able to articulate that status, even though I had been a New Zealander as soon as I began growing up. The parallel is with Moliere’s character who discovered he had been speaking prose all his life. .

Striving for, or defending, one’s nation-state is a characteristic of nationalism. Sometimes that has led to destructive outcomes. Need it? There is a useful distinction between ethnic nationalism and civic nationalism. Ethnic nationalism – it may be culturally, racially or religiously based – contains the notion of exclusivity, and antagonism to others. It is a nationalism which has lead to territorial expansion and ethnic cleansing.

Civic nationalism is about citizenship and political and social participation. Typically there is a sharing of common values, a sense of belonging to a community, and an allegiance to a nation which is typically but not always the nation-state where one resides. There is likely to be a common language, and usually there are common myths about the nation, using myth here as a narrative to explain certain phenomenon which may or may not be true in some sense or other. The continuity of myths is one of the key binding elements of nationalism, although of course it evolves over time. Myth enables those in a nation-state to claim a longer nationhood than the state has existed. There are few nation-states since 1855 which do not have a narrative which goes back centuries earlier.

Civic nationalism need not be aggressive, either towards those within the boundaries of the nation-state (as ethnic nationalism often sadly has been) or towards those outside them. But it can be. Indonesian President Sukarno used the Confrontation in the 1960s in an attempt to wield together the disparate elements of the newly founded Indonesian state. Less aggressively, the success of a person or group from the nation, say a win by the national sports team, brings out a national fervour. The United States, one of the most heterogenous nations in the world was unified in the sad circumstances of the terrorist attack of 9/11.

On Being a New Zealander

My New Zealand nationalism is civic nationalism. I give to other nations the respect they deserve, but I value New Zealand as a part of myself. I am not arguing we are ‘better’ – that is one of the reasons I eschew the ‘Better Britain’ notion. Being a New Zealander is best for me, but I make no much claim for the rest of humanity. I smile at the slogan that there are ‘two sorts of people in the world: New Zealanders and those who wish they were.’ But I know it is not true, and I would not want it to be.

In any case, claiming to be ‘best’ is a recipe for complacency. I observe serious inadequacies in New Zealand. Because I love the damned place as an integral part of my being, I seek to address those weaknesses, rather than ignore them — just as I try to do so with myself.

I am a Pakeha because there are other New Zealanders who would call themselves Maori. I celebrate such differences within New Zealand, observing the toleration of civic nationalism.

But I am not particularly supportive of biculturalism, because there is a rich diversity within the Pakeha strand: Asians, Celts, Continental Europeans, Indians Jews, and Pacific Islanders. Even that does not capture the rich kaleidoscope of our origins and ethnicity. Moreover, biculturalism is divisive. It suggests a homogeneous majority with a group of 10 to 15 percent who have separated themselves out. Nonsense, we are much more diverse than that, and New Zealand benefits from that diversity. .

However such a multiculturalism must acknowledge the special place of the Maori. That I have spent much of this lecture engaged with them is one such acknowledgement. I particularly cherish what the Maori has brought to modern New Zealand, facilitating the transformation from European settler to Pakeha.

Ultimately I know I am a descendant of my Pakeha New Zealander Mum and Dad, whose ancestors were from Europe. But Mum and Dad are different from me. And my children are different from their parents. But there is a continuity. If we want things to stay as they are, things have to change.

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