Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Well-Measured Critique

A well measured critique by Strypey of Michael Cropp's supremely un-critical regurgitation of what appears to be a press-release by Rau Hoskins. Mr Hoskins appears to be more interested in raising his personal profile than contributing anything tangible to current concerns about housing arrangements, quality and affordability. He is quite right to argue that "the...approach to housing... is not even working for Pākehā people, because we see marooned elderly people in their own homes, or living away from their children or living in rest homes", but using the term "euro-centric" is disingenuous to say the least, as is his claim that "the desire to live in close proximity to each other is a uniquely Māori dimension". It is mere posturing and hard to believe that a person who is an academic as well as a practicing professional actually believes his own myopic spiel.
Arguably, the Marae in its current form bears more resemblance to a mediaeval european village than to pre-colonial Maori dwelling arrangements such as the Pa, which in turn bears a resemblance to more ancient forms of European settlement such as the hill-fort. This is not to suggest they are in any way derivative -it is simply a matter of form following function. Since Maori were largely a rural and self-sufficient population until after WW2, it is hardly surprising that the urban Marae still retains a cultural inheritance from its rural counterpart. Europeans, and specifically the British, have four centuries of agricultural enclosures and industrialisation alienating them from the functional root of such communal living.
The current position is brought about by historical development rather than innate cultural difference. It's disfunctionality is largely predicated by the contradictions of the modern world.
  • The demand for a more mobile workforce in industial society than was previously required in the agrarian world.
  • Affordable transport options.
  • The tendency towards property ownership rather than renting or tied-housing. This has brought about the distortion of values (both moral and financial) by the economic function of property as investment for individuals and collateral for interest-bearing debt for the banking system.
  • Social and inter-generational disintegration, arguably a result of the replacement of common culture by "fashion" i.e. the desire of individuals and cohorts to express difference rather than "sameness".
  • The list is probably almost endless.
    New Zealand is in a particularly odd situation since the entire built geography of the country was created by colonial edict rather than by natural progression. Thus roads connect ports to farms in a dendritic pattern to facilitate penetration of capital and extraction of value, rather than a network to facilitate communication within and between communities. This has has a profound effect on attitudes towards property and created a virtue out of isolation, probably simply because it has become a cultural norm. Most NZers aspire to detatched living on a large section and this is institutionalised in planning law by rules of "one title one dwelling".
    I agree wholeheartedly with Strypey's reservations about the role of Maori Incorporations. If they see an advantage as purchasers of social housing they are doing so from a purely commercial perspective rather than altruism. It is a mistake to view these institutions of Maoridom as in any way benign or socialistic in intent. This is a colourwash applied by some activists and those Maori with a vested interest. One of those vested interests would be Mr Hoskins himself as the Incorporations would be potential future clients. I would go as far as to say that his interview or press release was designed to position himself thus.
    I think it is a flawed argument for Floydian Nectar to suggest that the government forced the Maori Incorporations to be set up in order that the government could deal with Maori on terms dictated by colonial culture. Whatever pre-colonial Maori culture was in terms of their view of property, their world was hierarchical and authoritarian. This is the reason that the Maori Party and the Incorporations are such a natural fit with the National Party. Ordinary Maori have, by and large, moved on from that view, which is why they have rejected the Maori party so vehemently, though I think that they, along with many ordinary Pakeha who might be expected to vote for Labour, have yet to find a vehicle for political expression.
    It was always in the power of the Maori incorporations to use their wealth to set up new types of social and economic structures that would empower ordinary Maori yet most choose not to. A few did use a large amount of their funds to facilitate direct benefits to their people but these cannot be sustained without structural change.
    I see the Marae and the Permaculture inspired co-housing / eco-village project as manifestations of essentially the same intention. The hurdles are to defeat the resistance of conservative ideology that has a vested interest in retaining the neo-colonial economic model and to make the concept as attractive to the general populace as it is to (some) Maori.