Monday, 20 February 2012


apparently the following cartoon appeared in the sunday star times, which together with the herald, seems to be outdoing itself in really crap analysis when it comes to minorities:

let's just analyse the crappiness of this cartoon. the first thing we get from it is that maori are lazy and don't care about or do anything about child abuse. despite the fact that there are any number of social service agencies run by maori trying to deal with this. despite the fact that there are many maori social workers working for government and non-maori organisations. despite the fact that there are many maori community workers and volunteers who are trying to make a difference.

and yes, i get that the cartoon is apparently not targetted at "all maori" because the standing-up guy is also maori. but he is one of the "good" maori who don't protest or fight for their rights. he's the kind of maori we can like, because he only cares about issues that don't make the majority uncomfortable. he only cares about important issues, that importance being defined by others outside of his community. and there is still the clear notion that the protester can't possibly have been working, in whatever capacity, on issues around child abuse, because the two are being presented to us as mutually exclusive.

the second thing we get is that child abuse is apparently a maori problem, despite the actual fact it is a whole-of-nz problem. but the cartoonist doesn't bother to give any attention to the fact there has never been a march against child-abuse that has drawn the number of people as, for example, the anti-mining march that got around 40,000 people off their butts and caused the government to change its policy pretty quickly. but no, there is no mention of non-maori nz'ers lack of sufficient public protest action on child abuse, nor have non-maori been portrayed as sleeping and unwilling to listen or act.

what we also get from this cartoon is that treaty of waitangi rights, as legislated in s9 of the state owned enterprises act, has anything to do with the prevention of child abuse. there is no consideration of the possibility that s9 could either ensure that maori communities do not lose rights to economic assets or that their interests are protected, amongst other things. and by protecting economic, social, cultural and political rights, the maori community as a whole benefits. the loss of those rights are detrimental to economic and social well-being, and such a loss feeds into negative statistics such as those around child-abuse.

in other words, fighting for the protection of treaty of waitangi rights will have benefits around a whole range of areas, one of which is child abuse.

note also the implication that people can only protest about one thing at a time. because there is child abuse in this country, no-one should be protesting about the removal of treaty of waitangi rights. isn't that just the tired old argument trotted out by the likes of richard dawkins and naomi klein: don't dare complain about an injustice because somewhere, someone is suffering a bigger injustice. so whatever bad or unfair thing that has happened (or is going to happen) to you is unimportant and you should be ashamed of yourself for even bringing it up.

or it's more the if-you-haven't-complained-about-that-then-you-don't-get-to-complain-about-this argument. as if a person should have spent every moment of their waking life being an activist on a whole range of issues before they get any right to protest on this particular issue.

both of these are silencing tactics, tactics that ensure that injustice continues and protesters and activists aren't taken seriously. they are tactics that protect the status quo and prevent positive change. they are tactics used against minority groups who try to speak out against the oppression they face, and they are genuinely nasty.

we could equally ask what this particular cartoonist has done regarding child abuse. if he hasn't done enough according some arbitrary standard set by me, then he surely shouldn't have the right to chastise anyone else about what they have or haven't done.

should maori be doing more about child abuse? of course. but shouldn't everyone? is anyone actually doing enough? CYF is massively understaffed, and existing staff are working under incredible pressure. housing nz is making it increasingly difficult for people to access decent housing - adding to the stress families face. wages aren't keeping up with inflation. unemployment is rising. work conditions are deteriorating with people having to work longer hours or uncertain hours on lower pay - which means less family time. health services are being cut. access to primary health care is pretty appalling in some areas of this country because there aren't enough GPs. funding for and access to mental health care is even worse. all of these and many other things are factors that feed into our child abuse statistics, and all of these areas are getting worse.

there are constant reports and research highlighting issues around child poverty. each and every one of us has a responsibility to agitate for change, especially at a governmental level. demonising one sector of the community and deriding their legitimate right to protest a very real injustice will do nothing to protect our children.

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