The label "idealist" has been tossed at me more than once.
It is usually in response to questions I selflessly pose during informed and thoughtful discussion.
"Decriminalising drugs is bad. I see. Will we just keep going with the current system then?"
"Sorry, just how does having a capital gains tax 'punish' hard-working people?"
"What's so wrong with wanting a job I love all the time?"
Idealist. Dreamer. Unhelpful. The list goes on and gets worse.
Sarcasm aside, what is so erroneous about thinking beyond the status quo? Snide, rhetorical questions are unlikely to cut it, but it does have its place.
Last week's efforts by the History Teachers' Association to address the lack of local history in the school curriculum reminded me of that. It is up against an Education Ministry that opposes mandatory teaching of colonial history. The ministry says the current system already allows schools to teach New Zealand history.
Rebuffing that, the association points out "so few New Zealanders know the story of the Crown's past actions that led eventually to the Waitangi Tribunal" under the current system. This is an unproductive set-up for the country's post-settlement era, it says.
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The crux of its submission to the education and workforce select committee is that "knowledge of the past is empowering and would allow us to move forward as a truly bicultural country".
Education resources are one thing. Linking it to the noble ideals of history teachers is another. Would it really help us become a "truly bicultural country"? Furthermore, what does that actually mean?
Tūhoe leader Tāmati Kruger describes it as an Aotearoa where everyone is tangata whenua. One which his people will help forge through their responsibilities as kaitiaki and tangata whenua of Te Urewera.
"Things are not sweet — 177 years has left some deep scars that we [Tūhoe] have to confront and work at," Kruger said in 2017.
"And when we take this journey to find out about our culture and our language, and our identity, these are the gifts that we will give to all New Zealanders. New Zealanders who are not too sure whether they're Kiwis or New Zealanders. Māori people [who] are not too sure if they're Māori or iwi. There's a vagary about that."
Conversations around our national identity are a work in progress, he said. Like the History Teachers' Association, Kruger also discussed the type of society New Zealand could become.
"Some Tūhoe think that in the distant future there may no longer be Europeans living in Aotearoa, because Europeans live in Europe," Kruger said.
"That, maybe, in a long distance, the only people you find in Aotearoa are tangata whenua, you and I tangata whenua — because we love the land equally. We have a commitment to it. We believe we are from the land, we will live with it, and we don't really think that we need to own it."
Two years on from his speech and the words still resonate. They also resurface whenever mandatory teaching of colonial history is brought up.
As painful and unjust as Tūhoe's history and present is, Kruger promotes an inclusive Aotearoa based on the principles of tangata whenua and kaitiaki. It is a level of enlightenment we should all strive for.
In the context of teaching colonial history, and its value in a post-settlement era, the question which I often come back to is: How many future leaders and visionaries might we produce if an ounce of knowledge someone like Kruger possesses is shared with all our school children?
A different but no less valuable perspective is offered by former National MP Chris Finlayson. While Minister for Treaty Negotiations during the Key Government, Finlayson oversaw 59 deeds of settlement with iwi.
In a panel discussion on Māori Television's Te Ao with Moana, the former Attorney General talks about the importance of understanding colonial history alongside post-settlement developments.
"The Crown forgets and the Crown needs to be reminded time and time again that there are obligations that need to be honoured," he says.
On the topic of post-settlement progress, he takes a similar line to Kruger — emphasising more time is needed.
"Come back and interview me if I'm still around in 20 years' time and I'll be in a better position to answer that.
"I will say this: There will be success; there will be a good relationship if the Crown honours its commitments; if it doesn't start to backslide the way it did with Tūhoe in the early 20th century, and promises were made, promises were not kept and then they were shut out of any involvement in the Ureweras, especially after it became a national park," he says.
Let's mandate the teaching of our colonial history to pursue a more sophisticated Aotearoa. One which can discuss developments of the post-settlement era in its correct historical context and understand the gravity of being invited to stand alongside Tūhoe as tangata whenua — as Finlayson and Kruger have shown is possible.