Sunday, November 20, 2011

Take your individualistic ostrich head out of the colonial sand

“What is colonisation all about? I mean that kinda stuff happens all over the world, it's just what people do, it's always happened. And it was so long ago.. You can't really do anything about it.”

This was part of the conversation I had with a young gay asian man while a small, staunch and chipper group marching for decolonisation up Queen St, to the (re)occupy Aotea campsite. And it's been on my mind ever since.

What I would have liked to say in addition, would have been that “Yup, I suppose it's always been happening. That the powerful, for a long stretch of current historical re-memory, have taken, oppressed and subjugated those less powerful. Taken and occupied land, resources and people.”

So the question, or statement rather, in response to that kind of thing said to people opposing colonisation, is “Yeah well, it comes down to whether and how you care about, and want to do anything about social justice.” And many people don't.

People have probably always beat up, set on fire, hung and killed other people, whether just because they want their stuff, because they figure their god said it was all good, or just because they lived and expressed differently in some kind of way. That is an observation. It's not a justifcation, for not doing anything about injustice.

We live in a time where the seductive and manipulative system of belief is that if you put your mind and energy to it, you can do anything. Inequality and inequity is merely bad luck or circumstantial, but once you actively engage in the fair and level playing field, you can achieve anything.

It's a pretty handy belief system. Also because it feels pretty empowering to a certain point.

It's one that the Model Minority (usually Asians) and many middle class gays, lesbians and queers happy champion. The possiblity of social mobility, being poor and then getting richer, combined with civil rights, do not mean that a system is fair and just and level. But many people think it is. And many people are pretty ok with the current system as it works pretty well for them. Until it doesn't.

The way we live is far from just. It's not close to serving most people most of the time. But we'd like to believe it is, because it's less work and less scary that way. We'd like to ignore rates of rape and sexual abuse, family violence, intergenerational wounds, poisoned rivers, toxic lakes, shrinking old forests, animals suffering, people living in poverty, poor mental and physical health, youth and adult suicide rates, and the ever widening gap between rich and poor. They are just unfortunate, circumstantial, and not indicitive of the way we live.

Its a great belief system because we don't have to do anything about it, and when anyone fails, it's just bad luck, or more likely because they haven't tried hard enough. So it's their own fault really.

Its hard to see, or want to see, structural oppression. It's hard to explain structural oppression to someone with an individualistic liberal framework, in a tasty soundbyte. It's because structural oppression is the whole platter, the table, the kitchen, the house, and the very land the house is on.

And that's hard to fit in a soundbyte.

But how about a story.

There is a family. Who lives in a house. One day another family turns up and moves on in, and forces the first family into the back shed out the back. The new family then takes over most of the vege garden and nine out of the ten fruit trees. The new family then moves in lots more of their cousins. The new family poison the rest of the vege garden they didn't take over, and chop down the fruit tree belonging to the first family.

The new family don't allow the first family to speak their language and do their own way of health care. When the first family protests at being kicked out of their house, their vege garden being taken or poisoned and their fruit tree cut down, they are thrown in the cellar. They are then told they've breached laws the new family made up and wrote in the new families own language. It's their own fault really.

Many years pass.

The new family's great great great grandchildren still live in the house, have most of the vege garden, and write the new laws in their language. The great great great grandchildren of the first family still live in the shed.

There are many more great grandchildren of the new family. They don't call themselves that though. They call everyone, including the first family descendents, New Housers. The descendents of the new family let the first family descendents have some veges and visit the house every now and then. They can't understand why the descendents of the first family suffer worse health than they do. They figure it must be about the first families descendents attitude to life.

And while we're telling tales, here are a few more.

Our fair and level “justice” system convicts Maori at higher rate than Pakeha for the same crime.

Our fair and level housing system favours Pakeha and European applicants.

Our fair and level job system favours Pakeha and European applicants.

And to all those Asians that love up the Model Minority Myth, those gays, lesbians and queers that think things are pretty level and fair, and if you don't “succeed” you're just not trying hard enough; here are some tales for you.

The Youth07 report that surveyed nearly 10 000 high school students, tells us that only a bit over 50% of Chinese youth are proud of their ethnicity. It also tells us that queers are over-represented in much of the negative stats including suicide, drug and alcohol abuse and all forms of bullying.

Shakti Community Council, that tends to Asian survivors of domestic violence is run off their feet.

We might think we are “ok” but we can't pretend our youth are.

If this feels like wet-blanket-party-pooping-negative talk, I will happily identify as all those things, if that's what telling our societal ostrich to take its head out the structurally oppressive sand is doing.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Statement in Support of the March and Rally against Poverty and Structural Oppression

As Asian tau iwi living in Aotearoa, we recognise the past and present injustices against tangata whenua.

We also recognise that through British colonialism and the theft of Maori land, the Pakeha-dominated political system has created wealth and a nation that provides "opportunities", "standards of living" that have become available to new migrants, old settlers and their descendents. These benefits and privileges we get from living on this land created and maintained by colonisation do not justify the violent process of colonialism.

We support calls to decolonise the "Occupy" movement and the 99%. Many of our homelands have been 'occupied' by colonial or imperialist forces in the not too distant past. The violence and destruction caused by imperialism has left a legacy in many parts of Asia and continues as an oppressive force through neo-liberal globalisation. The gap between the rich and poor is growing globally and the root of the problem includes colonialism, patriarchy and racism. The effect of poverty is racialised and gendered. It is no coincidence that 1% is mostly white men, and the most impoverished are people of colour. As a global movement seeking to address economic inequality, the "Occupy" movement must also address the roots of this problem instead of perpetuating further injustice by ignoring or sidelining the struggles of indigenous peoples.

We know that as Asian tau iwi living in Aotearoa, racism exists everywhere. Racism not only works to disadvantage ethnic minorities and tangata whenua, but it also works to divide us through negative racial stereotypes.

We choose to seek paths of justice that do not simply partake in further colonial injustices against tangata whenua.

We choose to look at social justice and our tau iwi responsibilities, not solely from a Western/Pakeha perspective, but from ancestral perspectives where our elders have experienced colonisation, imperialism, and perpetuated these injustices also, which continue to have impacts on sections of the Asian population.

We do this so we don't have to hand on legacies of grievance and injustice to our children and grandchildren, as has been handed to us as Asian tau iwi settlers, migrants and citizens.

These are the reasons we support tino rangatiratanga and encourage other tau iwi/migrants/refugees to join this march and rally!

March and Rally against poverty and structural oppression in Aotearoa!

18 November · 17:00 - 21:00

Britomart bottom of Queen St to Aotea Square

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Rise up and Decolonize Global Action Day: Lets get free!

Decolonize Aotearoa demands global and local economic justice. Indigenous peoples of the world Unite Together!

An action by indigenous peoples and movements and non-indigenous peoples and their movements throughout the colonized world who have always been part of the 99%.

We express our solidarity with those peoples who have lived under colonial and continue to live under neo colonial occupations.

This rally has been organised to claim space as indigenous peoples and peoples of colour within the Occupy Movement. When we imagine decolonization, we do not make demands of those in power or those who are behind Occupy movements; we create power and frame the alternative.

This event is organised by a coalition of Maori movements who are not part of the organizing body of Occupy New Zealand or of any the Occupy movements around the world. Because this land has endured colonial occupation and domination at the expense of Maori, we cannot promote or endorse the concept of occupation. Our engagement with Occupy movements or attendance at their demonstrations serve the purposes of claiming space for Maori and articulating the movement to decolonize on a local and global scale.

We continue to observe brutality in the legacy of capitalism, a system that relied upon the enslavement of African and Caribbean peoples, the genocide and displacement of Indigenous peoples, and the violent seizure of lands for colonial profit. Economic exploitation of labor and resources is only one process of continuing colonization that disproportionately impacts Maori and other indigenous communities and third world peoples.

We envision intersectional and comprehensive social justice that extends beyond limited narratives of class conflict. Struggles for self-determination have been waged for centuries by our ancestors before us, and will continue through the descendants who follow us.

In the strength of “making our own power”, we have organized our own international Call to Action titled “Rise & Decolonize! Let’s Get Free” on November 18, 2011 at 5:00 pm. We invite all those who have a genuine willingness to engage and listen to attend our solidarity rally and become an ally in continuing the work of decolonization.

This global action also supports the local and global occupy movements of the world who have bravely put themselves before the might of police states throughout developed first world countries in the pursuit of justice and freedom from capitalist imperialism's exploitation and control of the worlds wealth and resources in the hands of the elite few, the 1 percent. Nga mihi ki a koutou katoa!

We therefore invite you to share this event with us, tena tatou!

RSVP and invite your friends on Facebook here!