If cooperation is a duty, I hold that non-cooperation also under certain conditions is equally a duty.’ Mahatma Gandhi
I’m a colonial gal, more correctly I’m a wild colonial gal, in fact I’m downright angry. It takes a lot to madden me these days, but the whole episode around the signing of the TPPA has hit the button.
Not only is the secrecy around the negotiations deplorable, but for the negotiating parties to turn on those who question both the process and the outcome, and claim they don’t understand, or are misrepresenting, is doubly despicable.
But what has really taken the biscuit has been the paucity of our mainstream media and their mockery, scorn, and downright racism towards many of the protesters to Thursday’s signing.
I want to make it plain that I am the daughter of a colonial “master”. My father served as a reasonably highly placed officer in the Nigerian Colonial Police Force during the 1950s until Independence in 1963. My parents met and married there.
I was raised with black servants.
Colonialism is the establishment, exploitation, maintenance, acquisition, and expansion of colony in one territory by a political power from another territory. It is a set of unequal relationships between the colonial power and the colony and often between the colonists and the indigenous population.
Colonialism caused the loss of sovereignty, which is the loss of the right of a state to control its own destiny, to play in its own development, to conduct its own diplomacy and internal relations, to decide which outside nations to associate with or to emulate, and above all to manage or even mismanage its own affairs, derive pride and pleasure from its success and derive lessons, frustration and experience from its failures.
Africa not only provided Europeans with a source of raw materials, but it also provided them with what they viewed as raw, uncivilized people, on whom they could impose their views and whom they could exploit at the same time they exploited the land.
I have vivid memories of my father raging against black people and his support for Enoch Powell later when we were back in the motherland.
The colonial rule of the territories around the river Niger, defined by arbitrarily imposed borders, was maintained and controlled by playing the different races and tribes against one another. When the English left, all hell broke out and the atrocities of the Biafran War in 1967 shocked the world.
Fast forward a few decades, and I have now been a citizen of New Zealand for over 40 years. Don’t get me wrong, I love this country, it is my home. I’m married to a fifth generation Kiwi, and have 3 Kiwi kids. I have read Michael King’s History of New Zealand, I have attended Treaty of Waitangi workshops and I believe that in Te Tiriti, we have something that unique in the British Empire.
But despite that, I see all too clearly that the same attitudes that dominated colonial life in Africa, are still at work in New Zealand, albeit in a muted and covert way. It is never more apparent than when the indigenous people, Maori, get a bit “uppity” and claim their rights under the historic treaty signed 175 years ago.
At the heart of the Treaty of Waitangi is the issue of sovereignty as the British understood it, and governance as the Maori understood it. This has been an ongoing source of discussion and debate. But one thing has been constant throughout the history of this nation, and that is the repeated breach of faith by the governments of the day towards the Maori.
The signing of the TPPA is just the latest manifestation. Maori have experienced for generations the treachery of governmental assurances. This time however, it is not just the Maori people, Tangata Whenua, whose trust has been betrayed, but also those of us who have been later arrivals in this land, the Tau Iwi.
At the heart of TPP is the concept of Imperialism, which refers to economic, military, political domination that is achieved without settlement. Imperialism is aimed exclusively at maximizing self-interest rather than promoting good government and economic development in the colonies. Imperialism is not only the desire to open up more markets for finished goods and get raw materials, but is also to invest surplus capital and monopolize natural resources.
There is a hangover from Colonialism that we can still see in the new Imperialism. Colonialism saddled the most colonies with monocrop economies. During the colonial period, each colony was made to produce a single cash crop or two and no attempts were made to diversify the agricultural economy. Africans were encouraged to produce what they didn’t consume and to consume what they didn’t produce.
In New Zealand, what we produce as a trading nation is no longer just what we as a people need. Market driven forces determine what we produce. More and more of our family run farms are being converted to corporate owned and managed dairy economic units. So we export dairy and we import items that we used to produce ourselves, but others can produce more cheaply because of poor working conditions and wages for their workers.
Specialisation not diversification, all for the sake of trade, so our new masters can make profits.
To achieve this end the ISDS, Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism is the Trojan horse, if you like, the logical conclusion of which is to “take the legal system and turn it into a stock market”.
Under TPPA (and its northern hemisphere counterpart TTIP), we cannot interfere with that profit process without the risk of being taken, as a nation, to arbitration before an unelected, unaccountable tribunal of corporate appointees. If we were to democratically legislate to protect our environment against the adverse effects of intensive dairying, for example, we risk being taken to arbitration by a foreign owned corporate for future loss of profit. The arbitration decision is over and beyond our legal and parliamentary system and may impose crippling financial penalties, especially on smaller nations, all in the name of corporate loss of profit.
There is no appeal.
That is injustice.
Marx predicted that the bourgeoisie would continue to create a global market and undermine both local and national barriers to its own expansion. A November 2014 report showed that 0.004% of the world’s adult population controls nearly $30 trillion in assets, 13pc of the world’s total wealth,
Such loss of sovereignty to a new treaty, which we are assured is for our good, does not bode well with the hindsight of colonial history.
Which brings me to the protest movement.
Thursday 4 February saw a rising up, and a coming together of Maori and Pakeha, young and old to say “No” to the steamroller that is TPP. It was a festive, passionate, peaceful march, well coordinated, well publicised and absolutely splendid.
The Maori warriors who led the march were fierce and showed how awesome their culture is. The father of protest movements, Gandhi said, “A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.” We saw the hearts and souls of our nation that day.
I was disappointed to see the reaction of many of the media commentators, and government politicians. They are happy for Maori to win Rugby World Cups for them, proud of the haka performed at the beginning of games – a bit of spectacle on the side. But when performed with power, with anger, with passion and with real challenge, the comments were disparaging. The colonialists were quick to put the natives down, “rent-a-mob”. The ordinary folk in the march, not all of whom were good at articulating why they were there, were quickly mocked, put in their place, basically told “how dare you disobey!”
Civil disobedience has a noble history in colonial history. The art of Satyagraha, passive resistance or non-cooperation, was formulated by Mahatma Gandhi in the Indian struggle for independence from British rule.
In his fight for justice, Gandhi accepted two ‘tools’ or methods which were based on complete non-violence: non-cooperation was passive, civil disobedience was active and almost revolutionary.
The non-cooperation movement aimed at bringing the government to a stand still, by undertaking acts which the British government considered illegal, but were protests against exploitative and suppressive measures.
In 1930 the Dandi 24 day march (Salt Satyagraha) took place in protest against the repressive British Salt monopoly. Gandhi was arrested along with 80,000 of his followers. It stirred the whole nation.
It was the beginning of the end of colonial rule in India, and the crumbling of the British Empire.
“A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in
their mission can alter the course of history.” Mahatma Gandhi