Sunday, 1 September 2019

Three Breaths of Fresh Air after Trump's Wind

  Donald Trump's latest ghoulish  pronouncement is that he's happy the trade war could lead to 3 million Chinese unemployed.The figure is exaggerated as usual, but it shows once again a total lack of concern about human suffering.

Compare this with three items in our New Zealand news and thank God we live where we do.
Our New Race Relations Commissioner
First up is our new Race Relations Commissioner, Meng Foon, a man equally comfortable in Maori, Chinese and Pakeha society, and fluent in three languages.

 His inauguration mentioned white supremacy, hate speech and the rise of the alt-right, but the focus "faced squarely upon New Zealand, and our own human rights record ... There was a recognition that some of the country's most dire records, including that on poverty, had come about largely through colonisation and racist systems."

Also acknowledged were government policies that "were racist – an issue raised in the recent discussion over the impact on Māori caused by the prisoner voting ban ... the disproportionate number of Māori in prison and the issues surrounding Oranga Tamariki."

Justice Minister Andrew Little " invited Foon to use his position to call out the state when it got it wrong .   "You come in at a time which I think is very important for our country; when people are looking for that leadership and understanding," he said.

The Commissioner said he would balance his time between meeting people to better understand their issues and getting action in a timely manner.  When asked how he would find the balance, he said meeting people face-to-face will gain their trust, and quick action came from respect.

"I'm keen to actually listen to the people. But I also want to find out what is their solution. For so long we have – as government departments – imposed solutions on people and that is wrong. What we've been doing for the past 100 years is escalating into more problems than solutions. The right way forward was to trust those communities to identify their issues and solutions and support them in getting the resources and help they needed, he said

New approaches to reducing Maori in prison
Secondly, compare Trump's treatment of human beings with our moves to reduce our prison population, and the appalling imbalance of Maori to Pakeha inmates, which at present is little better than the disproportionate number of Blacks in American jails.

While National wanted  to build another prison, Labour is looking more at prevention, rehabilitaton and greater involvement by Maori.  See these two reports (1, 2) which call for a "Māori-lead reform of the prison system, and to see it "decolonised". The plan is to reduce Maori from 52% of our prison population to 10 percent. "Community-based responses to offending must be the default position of the criminal justice system, and wanting to see Oranga Tamariki disestablished, and for whanau, hapu and iwi to provide care for whanau in their communities."

Dr Liz Gordon, recently returned from Europe, had an interesting article on Sweden's prisons which I cannot find, but this account from Sweden ("Prison is not for punishment in Sweden. We get people into better shape") shows how very different their approach is to what ours has been.

Celebrating our racial and cultural diversity
Finally,  compare Trump's numerous barely concealed racism and xenophobia with our country's growing celebration of  our racial and cultural diversity.

Tongan Language Week  started today and Maori Language Week starts next Sunday. Six other Pacific Languages have their own weeks during the year.  I'll sign off with Malo e lelei,  'Ofu atu, Alu a  koe. Language is a crucial part of a changing society.

-- ACW


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