Bracken – from god-laden anthem to racist poem

Thomas Bracken wrote the words that have become the lyrics of New Zealand’s second national anthem, which is laden with references to God and Lord’.

“Our anthem is so focused on religion it’s not funny! Get away from all the god talk and start talking about something that actually means something to everyone in this country. Make it even easier, have it in our native tongue – Te Reo Māori!”

– Hemi Ruru, Papakura

Bracken also wrote a racist poem – it was about Chinese people. If he was found to have written something racist about Māori the maybe there would be an outcry and calls to condemn everything he wrote, like the religist anthem.

Michael Tull: Anthem writer Thomas Bracken’s anti-Chinese rhetoric ‘racist to modern eyes’.

There’s a danger in elevating historical figures to demigod status.

Last week’s editorial ‘Our anthem ‘God Defend New Zealand’ is a radically subversive challenge to tradition’ veered close to elevating New Zealand national anthem writer Thomas Bracken to a similar inviolate status.

Its staunch defence of his lyrics was, in part, a response to a discussion I started earlier this month on social media about whether it’s appropriate to have an undisguised Christian prayer as our anthem.

What I proposed was a revision of the lyrics, in order to address the religious elephant in the room.

Removing 13 direct references to ‘God’ and ‘Lord’, plus a further eight indirect references (such as ‘thee’ and ‘thy’) would underline the separation between church and state which is fundamental in a modern democracy.

While the anthem is often criticised there is no apparent drive to deem it as inappropriate and dump it.

Revising the lyrics might also make the anthem more relatable to, and reflective of, the increasingly multi-cultural and multi-faith mix of people who make up our country.

Bracken wrote at a very different time.

It would need more than ‘revising the lyrics’ – it would have to amount to a major re-write.

But Bracken, while a good man by most accounts, was no paragon of virtue, and his works are not time-proof.

Another of his published poems, Chinee Johnny, is so racist to modern eyes that strict limits were set on which bits can be quoted here.

Written in a mock Chinese accent, it includes lines like “cook him puppy in him pan”, “steal him fowley nighty come”, and “Chinaman no wifey bling/ No good women, all same ting/ Play on tom-tom, ching, ching, ching!”

Okay, let’s be kind and say perhaps this was “of its time”.  But even by the kindest interpretation, it still reads like the worst Benny Hill sketch ever.

More viscerally, Bracken’s poem sits mightily uneasy in the modern world.

Couldn’t the same thing be said about baking a prayer into the song through which we express our national pride?

If Bracken had written something that was as racist against Māori as is his his poem against Chinese then it would lead a modern movement to have a relevant anthem.

 

Peters demands honesty of others

Winston Peters has played the media again, getting the attention he wanted when he launched a racial attack on two NZ Herald journalists – see Peters plays media with racist taunts.

And media have continued to give him a platform. Newshub ironically report on him asking for honesty in Winston Peters launches attack on immigrant reporters.

“They came out with the report saying the mass majority of immigration is not coming from Asia”

The Herald had reported:

Despite China and India being among the biggest source countries for permanent residents, they are not among the top five for direct migrant workers.

Massey University sociologist Paul Spoonley said migrant from Asian countries were less likely to get direct access to New Zealand on skilled work visa.

“They are more likely to transition to permanent residence through temporary work and study visa routes using options such as the transition to work provisions,” said Professor Spoonley, an expert on immigration.

Peters:

While it might sound like you to be Trumpesque, but when somebody like those two reporters doesn’t bother to call the one party that’s been strong on immigration…

Strongly against immigration.

…and for very sound reasons and which is being proven right every month now…

It’s not ‘very sound’ to insinuation against and directly attack Asian immigrants, which is what Peters has done for years.

…as we have for a long long time, if they don’t bother to give you a call to see whether or not you agree with what their analysis is,

They didn’t go to any politicians, they went to sociologist Spoonley and health worker Aeziel Niegos for comment. Why go to a cranky old broken record who has a history of misrepresenting immigration?

it somewhat suggests they’re biased before they start.

It suggests they were looking for a different angle on immigration rather than repeating the same old.

Now you can find that Trumpesque, or Brexitesque or any other esque you like, but this is an election period, and we expect some honesty with the New Zealand public.

Does anyone expect honesty from Peters?

Well they’re like the New Zealand Initiative, who are majorly immigrants themselves.

That’s a dirty claim, and possibly inaccurate. Here are the people from NZ Initiative, only one or two out of 14 look possibly like Asian immigrants or children of immigrants, some others will have been born in other countries, but that is irrelevant to what they do, unless Peters is trying to imply that immigrants shouldn’t try to contribute to research and discussions in New Zealand.

…and they are heavy into being pro mass immigration.

“Mass immigration” is one of the dirtiest claims that Peters keeps peddling. New Zealand has long grown through immigration, but we have nothing like unlimited “mass immigration”, that is nothing more than dishonest dog whistling.

And “heavy into being pro” is a dishonest swipe at the NZ Initiative.

And meanwhile, the Herald has in it’s other pages whole forests of information about what’s going wrong with infrastructure in Auckland. Can’t they make the connection between the two?

I don’t think anyone doesn’t see the connection between an increasing population and pressures on Auckland’s housing and infrastructure. If New Zealand wants to grow – and the population has grown for centuries – then we need immigration, and a corresponding increase in housing and infrastructure. Does Peters want stagnation?

And that’s why I make this allegation, and I’ve never had a call from those two gentleman as to what New Zealand First thinks.

So Peters appears peeved about not getting asked to comment. His views are well known and hardly news. And his crankiness and dishonesty and attention seeking are not good reasons to give him free publicity in election year.

More journalists should ignore him unless he can contribute intelligently and accurately.

No, they go to everyone else but New Zealand First, because they know we’re going to dissect their misinformation, and expose it for what it is.

They didn’t do anything close to”go to everyone else but New Zealand First” so that’s another false claim from Peters.

All Peters has done is expose himself for what he is, an attention seeking dishonest crank.

“You have two immigrants themselves as reporters for the Herald writing what is clearly misleading information [and] headlining it on the front page.

“It’s ridiculous [and] it’s misinformation.”

Peters accusing someone else of misinformation oodles irony.

His reaction to not being asked for comment, just as no other politician was asked for comment , is what is ridiculous.

As is the amount of publicity that the media inevitably give Peters when he winds up his  racist attacks.

It’s still five months until the election. It looks like it could be a long and dirty campaign.

Peters demanding honesty of others is unhinged hypocrisy.

Trans Tasman sexism and racism

Apparently there have been quite a few claims online that the Trans Tasman MP ratings are sexist and racist.

Here’s an example:

Wow. Looking at those ridiculous Transtasman MP ratings and they sure are racist. All the low performers are the non white MPs.

The MP of the year happened to be female, but perhaps Amy Adams doesn’t have Samoan, Ngai Tahu, Indian and Dalmation grandparents.

If someone thinks that women, or Maori MPs, are performing poorly should they not say anything about it?

Stuff listed a few more ratings in The best and worst of New Zealand politics: National, Labour and the rest, and that includes:

National’s bottom five: 

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi: 2/10

“All he’ll be remembered for is the Indian students and faulty fridges disaster. Maybe it’s better he doesn’t say anything, just works away in committees and asks the odd patsy.”

Todd Barclay: 2/10

“Electorate office problems were hushed up. Given a hurry up, and now represents local Queenstown issues more effectively.”

Nuk Korako: 2/10

“What was he thinking with his ridiculous airport lost property bill? Didn’t seem to realise what was actually in it, caucus should have shot it down.” 

Melissa Lee: 2/10

“Part of National’s ethnic diversity who showed promise to begin with, but that was 2008 and it’s all gone now. Past her use-by date.”

Jono Naylor: 2/10

“Calling it quits after one term, so what got into him? No-one has bothered finding out.”

That looks quite multi-cultural and only one woman.

Labour’s bottom five: 

Nanaia Mahuta: 2/10

“There because of who she is, not what she does, which isn’t much. When she does react, it’s usually too little and much too late.”

Rino Tirikatene: 2/10

“Another disappointing year. No cut through on fisheries, arguments lack focus.”

Meka Whaitiri: 2/10

“Many outside of Parliament have never heard of her. Needs to change this, or she’ll be forgotten inside Parliament as well”. 

Ruth Dyson: 3/10

“Still lurching along, she’s rejuvenation material but doesn’t look like going. Labour won’t pick a fight over it. Good debater, competent chair of Government Administration Select Committee.”

Iain Lees-Galloway: 3/10

“One of the boys who makes the noise, not all of it worth much but he didn’t miss many opportunities. Strong debater, although he descends into diatribes.”

There’s a bit of a mix there, but 3/5 Maori and 3/5 women. Are any of those ratings unjustified? Have any of those MPs impressed?

Perhaps this is what peeved some Greens:

Green Party co-leader James Shaw: 6/10

“The smart half of the co-leadership. Shaw has the rare talent of thinking before he opens his mouth. Comfortable with the media across a broad spectrum of issues.” 

The Metiria fan club won’t have liked that. Two MPs can co-lead, but you can’t make them drink the same Kool-Aid.

NZ First “assault on free speech”

NZ First deputy leader Ron Mark’s remarks in Parliament last week, and the support of those remarks by leader Winston Peters, have been described in a Herald editorial as an assault on free speech.

I agree. Trying to put someone down and telling them they should go back ‘to where they came from” is an insidious attempt to shut them up, an attempt to tell them thay have no right to speak or to be critical. This is especiallyh serious as it happened in Parliament, where it’s important MPs can speak openly for their parties and constituencies.

Editorial: ‘Korea’ slight an assault on free speech

New Zealand First MP Ron Mark’s suggestion in Parliament that National’s Melissa Lee should “go back to Korea” rather than criticise something in New Zealand has been called racist, which it was, but it was also oppressive of free speech, which in Parliament is even worse.

Mr Mark is denying the right of immigrants to criticise their adopted country, which is an attitude heard often enough in general conversation where it is deeply oppressive for immigrants who are sensitive to the fact that they are recent arrivals and would like to join the conversation.

It is an attitude that should never be heard in Parliament, where it is essential to democracy that representatives of all shades of opinion, interest and ethnicity are allowed to speak.

NZ First have attacked Asian immigration and Asian investment and attacked Asians generally for some time. But to attack a New Zealand MP and to try and shut them up because they are of Asian origin, in Parliament, is probably a new low.

On that basis, Mr Mark may say he should be free to express the view that immigrants who do not like something about New Zealand should go back where they came from rather than criticise this country.

But Parliament has numerous rules that restrict its members’ rights to speak in ways that abuse their rights or oppress the rights of others to be heard. This should be one of the them.

It was ethnic bullying.

It is hard enough to encourage immigrants to stand for Parliament, as any political party can attest, for exactly the reason Mr Mark has stated. Naturally they wonder whether they have a right as new citizens to join in our political debates. We need to stress they most certainly do have a right. They have chosen to become citizens of this country, they are a large and growing minority contributing to its economy and we need to hear their views. It is not healthy for any country to suppress the voice of any section of its population.

It is similar to if Mark had told a female MP to shut up and go back to their kitchen or a Maori MP to shut up and go back to their Marae.

For these reasons, Mr Mark ought to have apologised to Ms Lee and to Parliament as soon as he had reflected on what he had said. The fact that he still has not should be treated very seriously in view of its oppressive implications for free speech in the chamber.

It is possible Mr Mark has not reflected on his remark even yet.

Mark should reflect on a number of things he has said in Parliament said and on his behaviour in Parliament. He appears to be too arrogant to do so.

It is not too late for the House to take some sort of action when it resumes next week. The need for a directive on oppressive speech has become stronger now that New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has echoed the offence. When the country’s most experienced parliamentarian says, “If someone is complaining about the country they are in, they … can always go back home,” he is a disgrace to free and fair debate.

It’s not unusual for Peters to be a disgrace to free and fair debate. It’s very sad that NZ First now have a deputy who seems tol be prepared to be more disgraceful.

All of this arose because Ms Lee criticised shop trading hours in New Zealand as they used to be. Any member of Parliament who cannot acknowledge the right of another to be here, and take part in our politics, is not worth his seat.

As far as Peters goes that’s up to the voters in his electorate.

Mark is a list MP, so it is up to NZ First to decide on whether he  deserves his seat. That his leader has endorsed and repeated his insidious remarks means voters should seriously consider whether NZ First is worth having in Parliament. Unfortunately democracy means even racists and bigots and those who verbally assault immigrants and assault free speech can get elected.

Twyford and Little hammered from all sides

Andrew Little has endorsed the awful data analysis of Auckland house sales that was promoted by Phil Twyford over the weekend.

He has modified Twyfords statements that Labour would ban foreign buyers.

Twyford on The Nation:

We would ban foreign buyers from buying New Zealand houses, end of story.

We’re going to ban foreign buyers.

Little says they would ban foreigners from buying existing houses but they would be able to buy sections and build on them.

Auckland’s problem is a shortage of land available to build on, therefore pushing up land values, so it’s hard to see that helping much if at all.

Data analyst Rob Salmond tried to defend his work at Public Address: House-buying patterns in Auckland

Data Analyst Keith Ng slammed Salmond, also at Public address: My last name sounds Chinese

The Labour leaning blog has strong criticism of Labour playing a hamfisted race card and Ng continues to slam Labour in social media.

And it continues with another post at PA, by Tze Ming Mok: Identification strategy: Now it’s personal

The real question is what did the Labour Party think it was doing taking this public.  If they just fucked up, so far so familiar. If they did this on purpose for well-calculated reasons – and it works – we Chinese-sounding named people are in way more trouble in New Zealand than we ever thought we would be again.

The second comment on that thread is from Stephen Judd:

I just wrote and cancelled my regular donation to the party with the message that it can restart when we have three clear months without race-baiting or hippy punching.

As someone who belongs to another ethnic minority where people stereotype about money and leap to conclusions based on names, this shit makes my skin crawl.

Political messaging is different from rational discourse over policy and you don’t get a pass for Bayesian inference when there’s a thick layer of racist implication on top.

Salmond has had another go at defending himself, this time on his own blog, Polity: http://polity.co.nz/content/how-labour-estimated-ethnicity-surnames (I can’t load it at the moment, must be busy).

Meanwhile in the other fairly Labour leaning blog, The Standard, some of the troops are doing their best to defend their cause:

Anthony Robins: Auckland property buyers

The big story this morning is Labour’s analysis of Auckland property purchase data.

Greg Presland: International investment in Auckland housing

Phil Twyford’s recent announcement on Auckland’s housing crisis raises important issues concerning the inflow of overseas capital into our housing market.  But should it have depersonalised the argument?

Too late for depersonalisation now. That was yesterday, and Little has endorsed the personalisation (or the targeting of Chines) today.

Te Reo Putake: China Crisis

Good on Labour for saying what needed to be said. Can they, the Greens and NZ First save the next generation of Kiwis from being tenants in our own land?

Includes Bonus Seinfeld reference!

Te Reo Putake: Twyford Responds

Labour’s Housing Spokesperson Phil Twyford responds to accusations of racism and points to the way forward. The Labour Party will limit foreign speculation, build affordable houses and replenish the State Housing stock.

But there’s an onslaught of criticism of Twyford, Labour and Little in all of those.

If Labour get this off-side with their own side of the spectrum it would appear to be a major own goal.

This looks like the first big mistake and misjudgement by Andrew Little.

He didn’t look flash with his handling of the Northland by election but that situation was mainly dumped on him by Winston Peters.

But this has been entirely of Labour’s own doing, it seems like a planned strategy.

Perhaps a sign of how badly they misjudged on this is Peters is endorsing what they have done.

Some might think this is a good sign for a left wing coalition plus NZ First – but Green and Mana supporters have reacted in horror at Labour’s race bashing.

And all this is without even looking to the centre and right for their reaction.

This has happened half way through the Roy Morgan July polling period. Labour may be hoping the bulk of the polling was already done.

It may or may not be a disastrous way for Little to emerge from the political doldrums, but it surely makes his hill quite a bit harder to climb now.

What Anne Tolley said

Tolley’s full comments that sparked the claims of racism by Metiria Turei:

DEBATE ON PRIME MINISTER’S STATEMENT

15:15:58~Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Police)

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Police): Well, the 2014 election year has begun predictably. National led off and announced its education policy, which was focused on lifting educational achievement for all New Zealand children. It was well targeted and as a result parents, teachers, and school leaders love it. It was well-thought-through and it was well costed, and we know how we are going to fund it.

The Greens—well, the Greens held a picnic and I think what resulted from that was that they gave the kids a sandwich, actually—they gave four kids a sandwich. [Interruption]

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): Order! Can I have some respect for the member trying to address the House? Courtesy is contagious, Mr Mallard.

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Thank you Mr Speaker. They insulted all the parents of kids in low-decile schools by saying essentially that those people cannot feed their kids and that their kids are unhealthy.

More important, the Greens reinforced their lack of ambition for these kids by confirming their belief that poor kids cannot learn. It is not that the poor kids are not bright or that they are not hard working; they simply cannot learn because their parents do not earn enough dollars. I find that insulting.

While we are on insults, I am actually rather insulted as a constituent MP. I serve an electorate day after day, week after week, meeting and talking with people in my home communities. I have to say that they are not well off. In my electorate, I represent some of the poorest communities in New Zealand.

I am actually insulted to be lectured on how out of touch I am with average New Zealanders by a list MP who has no constituents, lives in a castle, and comes to the House dressed in $2,000 designer jackets, and tells me that I am out of touch.

Well, actually, I say to the Green MPs: “Come into my patch and have a look. Come into my patch.”

Hansard draft transcript.

Metiria’s racist claim nonsense

Green co-leader Metiria Turei has claimed a remark by National’s Anne Tolley was racist, with Tolley calling it “utter nonsense”. It may have hit a raw nerve but it is a nonsense response.

On Stuff in MP’s clothes jibe leads to racism call:

Speaking during the debate on the Prime Minister John Key’s opening statement to Parliament, Tolley said she was insulted by Green Party claims that she was out of touch.

She said said her role as an electorate MP included meetings with constituents who were among the poorest in the country.

“I’m actually insulted to be lectured about how out of touch I am with average New Zealand by a list MP who has no constituents, lives in a castle and comes to the House in $2000 designed jackets and tells me I’m out of touch,” Tolley said.

Turei’s response:

Asked about Tolley’s comments, Turei said racism was behind the attack.

“I’m shocked that the National Party would attack me and my home and my appearance. I think it is a racist attack,” she said.

“I think they seem to think it is all right for them to wear perfectly good suits for their professional job but that a Maori woman from a working-class background is not entitled to do the same. I think it is pure racism.”

Ask how the attack was racist, Turei said she shopped at the same place some of her opponents did.

“They do not think that a professional Maori woman from a working-class background should be able to wear good suits to work,” she said.

“I buy my clothes from some of the same shops they do. I think they find that they can’t cope with that and I think it’s because I’m a Maori woman from a working-class background.”

She said it was up to the public to judge the performance of her opponents.“There are bullies in any workplace and this is just another example of that.”

When challenged on her racism claim on Twitter Turei responded:

@metiria
The racism is covert. Theres no reason for the singular attack but that.

You have to call out racism when you see it. Plenty of MPs work to end poverty and don’t get these attacks.

That’s nonsense, on that basis she could claim any criticism of her is racism, or misogyny, or anti-McGillicuddy, or anti-royalty, or whatever she wanted to dream up.

What seems to have happened is Tolley made a point that hit a sensitive mark, and Turei had no argument against it. Defensively she resorted to the race card. That’s as bad, at least, as Tolley’s remark.

In fact Tolley made what is basically a fair point, a major problem the Greens have is the disconnect between how they present themselves and the demographic they purport to be fighting for. I often hear it mentioned.

Greens often come across as middle class (or upper middle class) do-gooders who are out of touch and out of synch with what they represent.

And complaining about “MPs’ homes have always been outside of the acceptable realms of debate” is also hypocritical.

Turei said it was unfair to attack her home.

“MPs’ homes have always been outside of the acceptable realms of debate, and so this very personal, very explicit attack, I think, comes from their inability to cope with my work and the effectiveness of my work, and an inherent racism.”

Turei was happy to be publicised in an attack event at her “castle” earlier this month.

See Video: Militia mayhem and madness at Waitati.

The annual Waitati New Year’s Eve Battle between the Waitati Militia and Clan McGillicuddy was a bloody mary affair.

A 40-strong militia battalion arrived at Almond Castle, home of Green MP Metiria Turei, to discover a gaggle of McGillicuddy gargoyles basking in the battlements.

The militia banged their drums, waved Jolly Roger flags and shook sticks topped with teapots in rage.

The rules of the engagement were laid out and a safety briefing given by Ms Turei.

”Your safety is of absolutely no concern at all. I’m telling you think to avoid any legal complications later on,” she said.

I don’t recall Turei complaining that this coverage of her castle was racist.