Alan Duff: Get it on for Maori, odd couple

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Viewed from France, Kiwi politics are certainly colourful, but it’s hard to see these strange bedfellows surviving.

Hone Harawira and new political ally Kim Dotcom.
Hone Harawira and new political ally Kim Dotcom.

Doesn't he live in France? Yes, I do. So how is he still relevant to this country? I come back several times a year to visit schools on our literacy programme and follow New Zealand news closely. Didn't he go broke? Yes, I did. Still am.

Why is he over there living with the Frogs? Because I like them but, more importantly, for a novelist it's a far bigger market in a nation of booklovers as well as a pleasant place to live. Okay, that's out of the way.

In the six years my wife and I have lived here I've had three more novels translated, making a total of six. Kim Dotcom has risen and risen so now he's world-famous in New Zealand and the arch-capitalist has joined political forces with the arch-leftie-cum-agitator Hone Harawira. Huh? How's that going to work? Even from this distance I don't believe it will.

Hone has a street-fighter mentality and falls out with people. I suspect Dotcom tires of everyone. Which side of the fence will their policies reflect? The big German's side is the green of money.

The big Maori fulla's side is scorched earth and a belief that Maori woes are all the fault of Pakeha and greedy capitalists.

What are their policies on putting Maori into their own homes? Improving their employment prospects? Instilling in the Maori culture a reverence for education, a rejection of the ill-disciplined, instant gratification outlook which makes us Maori suffer more obesity, smoke and drink more, and too many not willing to sacrifice for our children.

So now, in Hone's eyes, I'm a baked spud: brown on the outside, white in the middle. Actually, I'm rather a white-skinned half-Maori.

Dotcom ...? Shut up. Hone ...? Stop talking angry crap. You're in bed with a capitalist. Use him, like he's using you. Give us your policies.

And Hone, our kids need books and inspiration, not verbal bombs dropped on Pakeha. Dotcom, less is more and that includes bodily kilos. Apply that intelligence and lateral mind to helping solve Maori problems in your ally's Far North.

A friend of mine suggested big avocado planting programmes on Maori land. But please, no more dairy farm water-polluting conversions. Please. It might make you rich but a pauper in conservation values.

Back to France - Bayonne/Biarritz where we live, all across the south, they love rugby and absolutely revere the All Blacks. Most of my friends here are expat Kiwis and former rugby players.

At top division games you can't hear yourself speak for the screaming and roaring, musical instruments, singing too. Boy, can the Basque people sing. Cry as well. Spectators, players, even coaches spill tears in televised interviews, of joy or sadness. Quite a few Kiwis are playing rugby here. And we're without question the best.

Every day my first task is to catch up with the news in NZ. Sure, too much of it is trivial, lightweight fluff about the usual celebrities, what some Auckland house is worth, or yet another cook - not chef - story.

It's just food, after all, not profound Pablo Neruda poetry. Or Scientific American magazine asking if we live in a holographic mirage from another dimension.

But the good news is of quite a thriving economy, low unemployment compared with Europe, a somewhat less intrusive bureaucracy, friendly and sporty people. And our Kiwi politicians are, compared with France, interesting. Here, they're often very clever graduates of top universities from either left or right.

In New Zealand they're a weird, if only occasionally wonderful, array of former teachers, lawyers, trade unionists, Joe and Flo Ordinaries, way more reflective of the general populace. In France, they're an intellectually elite set.

No internecine Winston v Horan Fight for Political Life here. No colourful characters and few fatties like a lot of our pollies. New Zealand has gay politicians, no doubt a few bisexuals; we once had a transsexual. A pity heterosexuals don't get the same airtime. Yeah, I said it.

New Zealand, ironically, has more mini-Napoleons, and on the left more than the right. While France has mini-nobles and wannabe royals all paying lip service as pretend-socialists.

I'm here till there's no market for my writing, or I find a market that loves me. I'll keep coming home to visit our schools. I hope the All Blacks set a new world record on August 16. I'll toast them this end with red wine, of course. Nice to be in these pages.

- NZ Herald

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