There's something curiously fitting about a man who appears to lack real understanding of the basis on which this nation was founded being nominated as "New Zealander of the Year"; it points up the Kiwi penchant to prefer myth over reality.

Yes, I'm talking about former Reserve Bank governor and then National and Act Party leader Dr Don Brash, erstwhile champion of free speech and the sort of unrepentant fossil the Nats would probably be relieved to see gone.

Because anyone who appears to believe Maori have no rights save to be the victims of colonisation does not, in my mind, understand the English version of the Treaty of Waitangi, let alone the Maori versions which the various signatory chiefs were sold on.

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It's one thing to support Captain Hobson's symbolic utterance, "He iwi tahi tatou. We are one people" (from Brash's 2004 Orewa Rotary Club speech) in ignorance or denial that the subtext was supposed to be "in partnership" not "by takeover".

For if you deny Maori rights and values, not to mention language, what are you doing if not relegating them to second-class?

To then fly to the defence of a pair of foreign "alt-right" hate-speech proponents simply because no one in their right mind would give them a platform merely nails Brash's true colours to the flagpole, in my view.

Okay, Massey University over-reacted in denying Brash his own speaking opportunity, but in fairness he had it coming; you can't rub people's noses in outdated prejudices for two decades or more and not expect them to eventually say, "Enough!"

And let's be clear: Brash cannot play the martyr because in my view he's not defending free speech; he is excusing hate speech.

There's a big difference, and I do not think he is such a fool as to not know that.

Letting alt right proponents loose to incite and inflame is less an assault on democracy than an insult to it. Democracy holds everyone truly equal; your vote counts regardless of sex, race, religion or any other identifier.

That's why those seeking to chastise the vice-chancellor of Massey University or the mayor of Auckland for refusing to provide a public platform for hate speech or its defence are in fact the ones who should be abashed.


Yet these same people – the Hobson's Pledgers and the OneLawForAll-ers - would have you believe they are "most" democratic because they ostensibly seek to uphold a society without division. Even though division seems to be all they talk about.

Protesters outside the Freedom of Speech debate at Auckland University in which Don Brash took part.
Protesters outside the Freedom of Speech debate at Auckland University in which Don Brash took part.

Democracy does not begin and end with one person, one vote. It begins with the supposition that everyone is the equal of everyone else, and it ends by inherently valuing one person's race, sex, religion, and culture as being as worthy as anyone else's.

Culture is the bit the racists stumble over. They can seem passionately supportive of equality of gender, religion, and even colour, but only so long as we are all culturally homogenous.

In this case, basically an imperial British colonialist outlook.

Try to live by any other standard and they will ostracise and demonise you for not being part of the whole. Which is patent nonsense, but it's how they think.

Simply, being racist is being afraid of this truth.

But we're rather good at avoiding truth, us Kiwis – so Brash for New Zealander of the Year is not that big a stretch. Is it?