The other reason, which is sometimes forgotten by tauiwi social justice activists (at least in the circles that I have worked in), is that however the current system is organised, it is founded on the injustice of colonisation. Whether we have dreams of reforming capitalism with a conscience, or a revolution to anarchism or other socialism, if tangata whenua do not consent then the result will be ongoing colonial injustice. For there to be any social justice, there must be tino rangatiratanga. We need more people who understand what we mean by tino rangatiratanga, and why it must be the starting point for a just society. Grounded as it is in several activist communities, Mana is in a great position to educate in those communities.
I could leave this post here, but I want to talk a bit about the way tino rangatiratanga is sometimes dismissed as identity politics.
Tino rangatiratanga and identity politicsA while back a piece at Maui Street argued
I am surprised that the Mana Party is focusing on class politics. The movement that underpins the Mana Party is firmly rooted in identity politics.... I want to talk about why it is wrong to call tino rangatiratanga struggle “identity politics”.
First, and most obviously, tino rangatiratanga is not about ethnicity or any other identity, it is about justice. Yes, in New Zealand the tangata whenua happen to be Māori and the colonisers happened to originally be Pākehā, but that doesn’t make it a matter of ethnic identity. In Wales, both the tangata whenua and the colonisers were Pākehā, and theirs was no less a struggle for tino rangatiratanga.
Second (kind of a restatement of the first, but it’s important so it gets its own point), the struggle for tino rangatiratanga is no more about identity than class struggle is—both are based on shared experiences of oppression and intergenerational injustice. I cannot understand any assertion that there is a difference (which is certainly not limited to Maui Street, I have heard similar statements from many social justice activists), and it pisses me off when we minimise/ dismiss tino rangatiratanga in this way.
Third, what frustrates me most is that (ironically, but not surprisingly) the argument usually comes down to cultural imperialism, or the perceived need for Māori to justify our reality against Western reality. It comes from an inability to recognise Western culture as cultural. I can only dismiss tino rangatiratanga as racial/ cultural, if I think Western knowledge systems and the values and ethics that stem from them aren’t racial/ cultural. Ie: Class-based struggle stems from Western philosophy, so it is not cultural/ ethnic, whereas tino rangatiratanga stems from mātauranga Māori, so it is cultural/ ethnic. And therefore it is identity based politics.
Fourth, calling it identity politics shuts tauiwi out of the tino rangatiratanga conversation. It makes it about us and them, when actually there are plenty of tauiwi who know what colonisation is, and who want justice for tangata whenua.
To review, tino rangatiratanga, is not identity politics, or at least, no more than other Western political movements. Even if we call it the struggle for recognition of Māori cultural identity, it is not identity politics. It is survival in the face of cultural genocide. It is based on a simple truth, which is not about race, ethnicity or essentialism of any kind (as I understand the term)—that tangata whenua have their own mātauranga, it is the first mātauranga of these lands, it is legitimate, it requires rangatiratanga to survive and develop. And it is about justice—through the processes of colonisation, Pākehā have tried to wipe these mātauranga from the land, along with the reo and tikanga that express them. Colonisation is illegitimate, unjust, violent, oppressive, genocidal. Tino rangatiratanga seeks to restore the balance.
I’m stoked that Te Mana provides a platform where these issues might get some deserved attention.