6 September 2012
Let me begin with a story about a lion and four oxen. The lion tried its best to attack the oxen, but the oxen always turned their tails to one another, so that whichever direction the lion approached it was met by oxen horns. But, one day the oxen quarrelled among themselves, and resulted in each pursuing their own interests and pasture. The lion attacked each ox one by one and soon had all four for a meal.
The story, of course, was coined by the Greek fabulist Aesop, who purportedly had been born into slavery around 620BC. He wanted to make a point to the people of his day: United we stand divided we fall. The phrase has been used by many nations and states, even groups, organisations, and communities, to rally solidarity in relation to issues affecting their lives.
Aesop came to mind as I contemplated on how divided New Zealanders were on the various issues initiated by government and some of our other MPs they believe best define a healthy and wealthy New Zealand society. The recent divisions have primarily been along party connections, the exploitation of the generation gap, the manipulation of peoples’ social and economic standings, and to some extent the utilisation of religious affiliation, and playing on the moral and ethical receptiveness of the various age groups. But, lately, it has been along racial, ethnic, creed, and colour lines, affecting and straining relationships within families and kindred groups. I am reminded of Jesus’ words of encouragement to his disciples to remain steadfast for the time of judgment was at hand, whereby “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.”
Furthermore, finding ourselves in such divisive situations has prompted me to reflect again in a new light on an article published by the NZ Herald last Monday entitled “Jesus figure return after 12 years ‘significant’”, especially given our present political circumstances and environment. The discovery of the ‘Jesus figure’ seems to suggest what New Zealand needs the most right now is spiritual intervention. It is the one thing that will bring about some sanity into the divisive stance that seems to have taken a grip on our political representatives, as well as our communities. It seems we are straying from Aesop’s instructions and God’s wisdom in tackling and reinvigorating the many alternatives to solving our problems, and offering some comfort for the many setbacks and disappointments.
For the last few months the National led government under John Key may have had vision of what Thomas Moore, back in 1516, meant when he raised the idea of an utopian society; Key and company had governed without much attention from the people lately, while watching the opposition, the Labour party mainly, fell apart over the Louisa Wall same-sex marriage bill. But, as Thomas Moore had indicated, and the national government should have been aware of it, utopia is an ideal. It wasn’t long before the Labour party was reminded of Aesop’s road to solidarity – United we stand, divided we fall – and got their act back on tract. The same-sex marriage bill was passed in its first reading and the debacle has been postponed for discussion sometime in the future.
However, recent events has prompted me to point out once again that there is a bigger agenda behind this bill than it seems. I am now more certain of this as I follow two cases regarding British Nationals now before the European Court of Human Rights. One in relation to Gary McFarlane being fired from his job for telling his employer he would have a “conscientious objection to giving sex therapy advice to gay couples,” and the other relates to Lilian Ladele who lost her job as a Registrar for refusing to conduct same-sex civil union ceremonies. This is the future reality of Louisa Wall’s same-sex marriage bill; many Pacific Islanders’ Ministers will not become marriage celebrants if they refuse to marry same-sex couples. And where will that leave Pacific Islands’ churches? Something to ponder upon come the next round of debate on same-sex marriage.
But for now, let’s not give the National government more space to gloat, and point out that the focus of the New Zealand public has quickly shifted back to the present government, and the strong oppositions that has been gaining momentum against its many policies. But this time, the demarcation lines regarding the issues at hand are clearly drawn between the political parties, and most significantly, there is a growing widening of the gap between what the political parties think and propose and what the people of New Zealand believe and advocate in relation to these issues. The most significant issues, I believe, that are now pulling New Zealanders apart, relates to asset sales and Maori water rights, the rise once again of youth suicide, the scourge of children poverty and poverty generally, the curse of unemployment, major industries and businesses closing down, Housing New Zealand house rent hikes and housing shortage, continuing blunders by government officials in ACC, and the fact that the present government does seem to have an immediate solution on how to deal with the many setbacks and ensuing problems that have stemmed from unworkable policies and government agendas.
The Maori rights to water was never an issue until the government decided to sell state assets. The government have stood firm that they have the power to go ahead and sell state assets, but its bulldozing attitude has been swept back under the carpet by the Waitangi Tribunal’s recommendation to delay asset sales until Maori proprietary rights to water had been finalised. The government reluctantly agreed, but insisted that all discussions be within their time frame and direction; the government preferring to talk to individual iwis on the matter. John Key insists that sales of shares in state-owned companies does not affect Maori interests in water. It means, therefore, that John Key will not attend the national hui called by the Maori King, Tuheitia, at Turangawaewae Marae to discuss the matter; and he has veto any National MPs attending the hui, and he will not send a representative of the government to participate. And this is on top of his refusal to meet with the Maori Council.
But John Key’s arrogance is part and parcel of the National government political manifesto in public relation, as it has been aptly displayed by the likes of Judith Collins, Paula Bennett, and Bill English, to name a few; they all have infallibility syndrome that even when they are wrong, they will not admit it or back down. But arrogance can only take you so far, or should I say, so high; soon or later, as the law of gravity predicts, what goes up must come down. But, the recent events have exposed a darker side of Maori relationships – selfishness – that has devoured many Pacific Islanders’ and Maori solidarity movements in the past. It is also called self-destruction.
But, it is good to see that the Labour Party and the Greens Party are committed to such initiatives because what John Key and the National government, and all elected MPs to Parliament, needs to understand is that what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. It has been 172 years since Europeans and Maoris agreed to live side by side, and the Maori have adopted much of European culture and mind-set but many Europeans, such as John Key, has not learned to respect or even adopt Maori protocol and mind-set about many things including rights to land, seabed, and water, and even the most simplest idea of respect. It is obvious by rejecting an invitation to attend the hui John Key has no respect for the Maori King and the Maori people, the same attitude he and his government has shown towards the poor and needy in our societies. The water rights issue will a have a big impact on the government and its relationship with the Maori people. Nevertheless, John Key is playing to his strengths, especially with the Maori Party deciding against attending the hui and even some Maori iwis suggesting that a national hui is a waste of time.
John Key can be satisfied with the bickering within Maori ranks because a divided group cannot win. In fact, it has given John Key and the National led government good solid ground to pursue asset sales, knowing that even Maori people are divided on the issue of water rights. And despite the many comments that has been offered regarding the way Maori politics work and should be interpreted, all I can say is, John Key will get his way with asset sales, and the Maori iwis would have to beg the government, and not the other way round as it should be, to have their proprietary rights to water recognised; and all because Maori forgot the simple rule regarding building solidarity – United we stand divided we fall.
The lion has been given the opportunity to eat the oxen one by one. But, for now, both sides are ready to make significant sacrifices. But, even when it seems the Maori people are divided within their ranks, blood is always thicker than water (excuse the wit); and the last time water turned into blood was when Pharaoh refused to free God’s people from slavery.
Many in our Pacific Islands and Maori communities already feel like they are living in slavery under the National government, and many are waiting for that one person, or one political party, to free them from bondage. But, it can only happen when the people have the resilient to say “no more” and cry out “united we stand divided we fall”. But, remember, our priority, as always, is to seek the peace and prosperity of this country to which God has given us to dwell. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.