The nature of bi-cultural human beings in Aotearoa or notes about the New Zealanders I live with.
Maori Glossary and
References at back
The following as a philosophical commentary is informed by the universal notion of humanity living in a particular time and space. The relationship is not limited by the Western ethical definition of human beings living in society (human beings only) but rather takes a wider non-Western viewpoint that ‘all the world is your relation,’. This view is enabled by the Indian philosophical concept of dharma, that which ‘supports’ or ‘holds together’ as well as the Maori concept of ‘tikanga’,as the nature of a thing. Thus dharma lends itself to an extended sense of ‘law’ as holding together and could be said to be Indian tikanga. The particular branch of Indian philosophy I wish to use is Advaita Vedanta or non-dualistic Vedanta. Vedanta, as meaning the end, goal or essence of the inspired writings of the Vedas, focuses on the unity of all creation. Brahman is the One Absolute Truth but appears as many in the phenomenal world. The macrocosm and the microcosm are the same Reality. There is only One not Two, which is the meaning of Advaita (Smarananda 2000: 8) By such comparative philosophy, the meaning of bi-culturalism (two cultures being Maori and non-Maori or Pakeha) in Aotearoa will be examined as to its adequacy in describing the relationship between human beings and the environment as the end goal of holding things together. The viewpoint, that philosophy is a lamp to all sciences, means the nature of the commentary will be a rational one, using comparative Western and non-Western philosophy to evaluate what social and physical sciences have to say about ‘nature,’ ‘culture,’ ‘human beings,’ and ‘living in Aotearoa-New Zealand.’ This viewpoint encapsulates what can be observed and measured of the phenomenal world through our senses, described as the discipline of physical science. Things which cannot be so described are classified as not of the physical world but rather, of the metaphysical world. The history of the rise of Industrialism within the ideology of science and emphasis on Plato’s rational human, meant that the metaphysical world was increasingly demystified and explained. This demystification, as it spread across Western Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, had the effect of destabilizing societies that were held together through the cultural meanings that relied on metaphysical meanings. Aotearoa and the Indian subcontinent, with their unique cultural philosophies, were just two of those societies. A flipside to this demystification, is that new social sciences with beliefs or ideologies attempted to replace the metaphysical explanations of the phenomenal world However the enthusiasm of the initial Enlightenment has waned along with the credibility of the physical science programme to adequately map the experience of the human being and the description of the world s/he constructs.
The argument will show that reliance on historical models freezes the efficacy of tradition and a dynamic interpretation is needed to go beyond dichotomies that limit the human expression of culture. Thus bi and multi culturalisms are seen as signposts on the journey rather than destinations, as notes from the New Zealanders I live with.
Central to this commentary is viewing human beings within an environment. Sociology has had much to say in its attempts to align its discipline alongside the ‘hard’ sciences of nature as describing a non-human world. It has traditionally done this through the formulation of both grand and micro theories explaining social interaction as obeying ‘natural laws.’ It is from this social interaction that the notion of ‘culture’ is formed as norms or customs that define how a people live and breathe for the betterment of all. Anthropology, as a social science, has added a historical dimension to how this ‘culture’ has been lived and adapted by human beings across time and space. From a Western philosophical viewpoint, culture could be seen as a perspective that informs all the social interaction within the lived environment, although a Maori philosophical view would say there is interaction also between human beings and non-human beings, what is seen as the environment or nature at large This interaction is expressed as a relationship, in cultural terms both as tangata whenua (people of the earth or nature, nuturing all creation (kaitiakitanga (caring for), and philosophically as ‘belonging.’
Defining the nature of human beings however means viewing the social sciences through a philosophy of science where the distinctive features of humanity are revealed as it were, from a background environment.
I argue for a re-interpretation of Maori ethics and tradition in the light of providing solutions for the healing of all people in Aotearoa/New Zealand within this background environment (Whaanga 2008a). Patterson (2000) equates Maori ethics with Aristolean virtues, agent-centered rather than action-centered, that one ‘ought to’ do things rather than follow the performance of rules or law. An example of this difference is seen when Pakeha law is compared with Maori ‘lore’. While the Pakeha law in Aotearoa has been seen as judicial and codified, it is also experienced by Maori through colonization as immutable because it is scientific and backed up by the process and understanding of the natural world as seen by Western enlightenment. But Maori lore is also called tikanga (the nature of things) and the understanding or ‘heart seeing’ is more than possessing information as codified law, but experiencing truth as knowledge. This dynamism of traditional Maori lore can be compared to Vivekanda’s twentieth century contribution to Indian philosophy. Through reference to Vedic philosophy, he pulled Indian thought from abstract rational contemplations to an experiential account of the Absolute Reality that is capable by humans in their lifetime to relieve suffering. Within this account, what I would refer to as residual Maori philosophy can be seen today as a pale reminder of the virtue ethics bludgeoned and defined within a global economic model. To recap, this Maori philosophy defines a person by what motivates them to take their actions, in Indian philosophical terms, that which supports (dharma). Perret described it as virtue ethics where the ideals, personified by the rangatira (chiefly) figure, were sought to be practiced by all. The society, envisaged as pre-European, was a practical one where the tohunga (sacred mediator) mediated in a sea of rangatira-like-infused actions, through the cultural counterbalance of tapu (sacred). As mauri (life-force) was seen as infusing all humans and the environment (creation), tikanga was said by tohunga Kereopa (Moon 2005) to be the nature of a thing. (Plato described nature as realizing what you are capable of.) Tikanga has taken on a latter day meaning of what is correct but Karetu (1984) has revised Reeds 1948 Concise dictionary tikanga entry to mean habit, meaning, reason, rule, method, custom, practice.
The original meaning of tikanga, within a holistic Maori philosophy, is the proper way of living in harmony with the world. This in itself is the goal, to be in harmony. In Whaanga (2008b) discussing the freedom to adapt traditional knowledge, I argue that any discussion of tikanga begs the question as to what is the proper or correct or true way of living. Essentially what is truth? Is it correspondence (what is true and describes the world as it really is) coherence (statements are true if they fit in with what one already knows about the world) or pragmatic (taken as presented).
Most explanations of traditions as ritual communication, are uncritical and say that’s how it was passed down from the ancestors. Most contemporary Maori believe this, and give this as a reason not to change rituals. Proponents of the philosophy of science model, say in ritual contexts, the truth as correspondence model is abandoned in favour of truth as coherence. Boyer (1990:56) says existing anthropological theory is inadequate and cosmologies can be understood only if regarded as knowledge in the process of communication, embedded in social organisation, rather than fixed belief systems. In this regard, both coherence and correspondence could describe the four noble truths of Buddha. The four truths are, there is suffering; there are causal conditions for suffering; there is cessation of suffering; there is a way to cessation. Truth as correspondence, could describe Buddha’s vision of how humans live in the phenomenal world and how his enlightened mind saw a way to overcome it. Truth as coherence, could describe Buddha’s practice, as enabling human beings to relate to their sufferings but still give them goals and ways to overcome the suffering. This would make Buddhism understandable or cohere, by fitting in with the human experience of the world. The truths as intended by Buddha, were prescriptive goal-oriented philosophies in keeping with the Indian tradition. Because Buddhism was not a fixed system of beliefs but rather prescriptive philosophy on how to alleviate suffering of beings, it flourished as a social organization developing many branches and practices which are still followed today across the world.
Boyer further emphasizes the role of individual creativity in cultural reproduction and change. Indian philosophic systems say oral tradition depends on the utterance of the person who knows it to be true and when he conveys it, does so without distorting it. Therefore oral tradition is rational, depending on the person and is not dependent on a supernatural being. And here we are back at how do we arrive at truth? Therefore the sources of knowledge are key to gaining knowledge but it is the understanding of that knowledge which determines the path humans then take. In this regard the Indian philosophic tradition is most helpful, in that it is seen that gaining more knowledge removes doubt and error. Humans can always know more, we never stop learning. Therefore tikanga, as goal oriented cultural practice, needs freedom of choice to acquire more knowledge and so change or adapt tikanga to those changing circumstances. So it is dynamic, not fettered by codified rules. However what if the sources of knowledge for those tikanga or proper practices are not understood in the totality in which they were first mooted and that tradition is being blindly followed, instead of allowing flexibility. By understanding the potential of tikanga to be practiced as ‘virtue ethics’, the ‘ought to,’ category (Perrett and Patterson 1991, 185-202), Maori cultural philosophy has the flexibility and dynamism to re-inspire contemporary Maori culture. It would allow for new experience, more knowledge as tikanga that works and perhaps in time, as tohunga Kereopa hoped, become tradition.
A deeper look at what constitutes knowledge is called for. Advaita Vedanta says knowledge is two kinds, subjective, as immanent within the world Atman, and objective as the transcendent Brahman. The first is knowledge of one’s existence which does not require proof. But whether or not this self is one with the Infinite Absolute or Brahman, can only be known by the scriptures. This is the Shankara view but this scriptural knowledge must culminate in direct experience. Later disciples, Sri Ramakhrishna and Swami Vivekananda give greater importance to the experiential. This was a recalling of Vedic philosophy which thousands of years ago, attempted in poetic language to describe the indescribable as that power which pervades the universe and the mind of man (Griffiths 1982:46-47) The experiential also incorporates a scientific spirit by which there are no fixed dogma or rules to achieve the goal in every situation. It allows for degrees of freedom and a graded approach similar to tohunga (healers) using different (rongoa) medicines for different mate (illness). This attitude can also be seen as experimental as followed by Vasistha. “One is to be released by self-power from this abyss of worldly sages existence having resorted to creativity and effort, one is released, just as a lion escapes from a cage.”
The quest for Absolute Truth ends in transcendental knowledge of the Unity of all creation. The transcendent, shows the Absolute as beyond the mind and senses. The immanent aspect, revealed as ‘God in the world in all creation, gives Vedanta pragmatic value (Smaranananda 2000:8).
Patterson in Exploring Maori Values (1992.102) says Maori became full human beings by following the customs or common practices of the ancestors. This, he says, is the same philosophy of Aristotle, agent-centered rather than an action-centered philosophy, that one ‘ought to’ be, rather than follow the performing of acts or obeying of rules. Patterson believes Maori achieved this by the imitation of virtuous people, which is also one of the four Vedic principles, the others being, association with holy places, study of holy scriptures and dedication. This is a Maori philosophy of virtue ethics and contains the potential for evolutionary Aotearoan ideals. Patterson’s view is that the Maori world-view was not dualistic but incorporated polar opposites e.g. hoa/friend, riri/anger = hoariri/enemy or angry friend. This was an example of a philosophy of mutual interdependence that was not exclusive. This mutuality incorporated the whole environment, with the human, holistically needing to be in balance with all. This once again is the supreme goal of tikanga as dharma, support for all creation.
Patterson posits mauri as the life-principle and mana as the power or authority that enabled creativity to be exercised. To deal with challenges to this mana, the principle of tapu dealt with infringements. Thus tapu incorporated the ethical demands of the virtues and rangatira were seen as set-apart virtuous people practicing noble ideals. In sum, Maori philosophy defined both a closed and open society. Closed in that leadership was circumscribed by the ritual/religious aspect but open in that political leadership was by personal achievement. Maori values stressed what you were rather than what you did, character as opposed to action.
Let’s go deeper into Patterson’s definition of mana in People of the Land: A Pacific Philosophy (2000). He sees mana as a universal good enabling the attitude to treat all humans and non-human as kin thereby earning what he terms as ‘soft’ mana. Tohunga, Maori Marsden (2003, 20) describes the creation of the world as coming from the stirrings of Io, the creator and First Cause in Te Korekore (potentiality), Te Po (becoming) and Te Ao Marama (the world of being). Thus the whakapapa of the gods includes all creation, human and non-human as related in a dynamic process. This is similar to the Indian philosophic tradition of the Vedas, through to nineteenth century Vivekananda (‘the entire world is your relation’) and the becoming consciousness of the world of Sri Aurobindo, where human beings performing good actions promote this process. Aurobindo says the world is in a process of evolution, traceable to the Divine itself, and is a progressive unfoldment of the Absolute Divine, in which human beings are integral parts. He sees karma and rebirth as necessary to explain this conception of evolution (Shaw 20000.)
Patterson’s ‘hard’ mana comes from creation, as it is the tapu of the atua, the creative gods who weaved the world. Collective responsibility means it is binding as well as bonding, so past actions against mana have consequences for the future. As our thesis is the nature of bi-cultural beings of Aotearoa, the plight of Maori culture in Aotearoa ought to be a contemporary collective concern, rather than the Aristotelean agent-centered Pakeha model of the individual.
Thus the infringement on the mana of both human beings and non-human beings (the environment) in Aotearoa affects the mana whenua (guardianship of the environment). Compensatory justice, as measured out by the Waitangi Tribunal, could then be seen to restore the balance between human and non-human creation, such as the Tainui Iwi and their kaitiakitanga or guardianship of the Waikato River. But as the Waitangi Tribunal is framed as political action, it can only remedy economic imbalance and fails to speak to the political and spiritual imbalance.
And anyway, Aristotlean agent centered philosophy was closer to the Maori community concept. There was no distinction then between the public and private spheres, as the identity of Greek citizens was closely linked to the city-state to which they belonged (Sparknotes 2009). Another way of describing the ‘nature‘ of a thing is its tikanga, its meaning or its potentiality. Plato saw this potentiality in the context of his goal-oriented philosophy expounded around 5 B.C. He saw the ‘good’ as the ultimate goal of all things thereby making the world intelligible. Plato believed knowledge of this good would affect human will and guide actions. He thought that all human beings must know good, such as combining justice and beauty to produce good. In this way it would change your life by working to realize these values. In his treatise on the Republic,(Nettleship 1885), Plato spoke of the good in its moral application, where as a principle, it fills in our fragmentary view of human life giving an ultimate finish and purpose going beyond ourselves. The good is for the order of the world as a physical universe and human abode. In Plato’s later Phaedo, the good is the final cause, in Philebus, the good is manifested in truth, beauty and proportion as the order of the universe. Truth is the reflection of this good and guides the human will and actions. This voice of reason reflects the moral order of the whole of universe.
Kant, later in the 18 century expanded this as the categorical imperative, what ‘I ought’ to do. Plato believed the human being reached the moral good in proportion to realizing their station in life, their place in relation to the world. Just as a ship realizes its function by sailing well, so humans realize theirs by contributing to the good. Thus here we have a helpful definition of ‘nature’ that joins with human being to describe it as the function, meaning or tikanga of a human being. The Platonic tikanga as function, is described in the creation stories of the Indian Upanishads as merely names and forms manifesting the Absolute. In the beginning, all was but the unmanifested or Brahman. From that emerged the manifested. That Brahman created Itself by Itself. Therefore it is called the self-creator. (Taittiriya Upanishad, 2.7.1) A clearer explanation of this Self is that human beings don’t fully grasp It, as they can only see it as incomplete, as aspects. When applied to the function of living, It is called the vital force, when It speaks, the organ of speech, when it sees, the eye, when it thinks, the mind (Adamkova 2000:13).
Thus nature as function also explains human beings as manifestations of this Brahman, uniquely capable of realizing their divinity. In the late nineteenth century, Vivekananda followed his guru’s call by taking this message to the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in September 1893. Vedanta is neither pessimistic nor optimistic but realistic at phenomenal level. The world is a mixture of good and evil and human being have to sift the grain from the chaff carefully and find the truth hidden within us, within every one of us. That truth is free and resplendent, free from all dross. Each soul is potentially divine and the goal is to manifest this divinity by controlling nature (function), external or internal. Do this either by work, worship, psychic control or philosophy, by one or more or all and be free. Dogmas, rituals and books are secondary (Smaranananda 2000:10).
Continuing with Platonic descriptions of the world will be helpful as these have informed our Western senses of Pakeha here in Aotearoa as to what a human being is and to some extent competed with a holistic Maori concept. Plato’s view was a dichotomy, dualistic where certain ideas like humanity were outside our world (Heaven) and human being is experienced as copies of that in this world (Earth). Human culture is thus being the sense and appearance that becomes in this world. Plato and his pupil Aristotle proposed a philosophy as one of ideas as they sought a theory of existence. This naturally had to find a reason for human beings. Plato saw ideas as universals and humanity was one such universal that entered into the realm of particular with human beings. Aristotle differed from Plato in developing types and he put humans in with animals. But he said humans were rational animals and thus their nature was one of equating ends with means, being goal oriented.
The Nicomachean Ethics, as Aristotle’s view of a life of action in order to fulfill one’s function, contrast with Hume’s view that reason can’t inform us of the value of things because value is something humans impose upon things (Aristotle 1985:15). As an empiricist, Hume’s ethics are based on the idea that the merit of a given action is determined by the consequences and that humans respond emotionally in a common way. Humean morality is based on considerations of utility , that is promoting happiness of people. Moral judgements are expressions of sentiment and not of reason. They are not expressions of self-interest, they are ‘other-directed’ sentiment (Hume 1983:39,51,68).
However both Aristotle and Hume can be critiqued for their world views, Aristotle for assuming we can know with precision the a priori function for all things and Hume assuming there are no a priori ideas. Plato saw the soul as remembrances of ideas when it lived in the realm of ideas (immortal). The soul as an apprehender of ideas used reason and differentiated humans from animals who could not reason. Soul is Plato’s metaphorical talk, a way of saying ideas can’t be fully realized. This soul had a noble, rational part in the mind that sought higher emotions. The ignoble part was irrational and had a sensuous appetite. He thought the human mind perceives the world is a reflection of those ideas, composed of particulars (e.g. a Maori) by which you can discover universals like Maoriness. Aristotle, as a student of Plato, expanded on his thought about the essence of a human being. He introduced logic as an explanation of combining Plato’s particulars and universals into subject and predicate that has been used in Western thought as an assumption that we can know the function for all things. An example of Aristotle’s advancement is that he saw substance as being the essence of a thing and it doesn’t exist apart from a particular. So Plato’s humanity is only accessible in Socrates as a human being.
Let’s apply the definitions we have so far to the lived conditions of human beings today in Aotearoa. To do this adequately we must assess the historical and sociological influences, or as Maori tikanga would say, take a holistic approach to how Maori and Pakeha arrived at today. Colonisation has had a major effect on indigenous people in all times and space. The exploitation of one people by another has been a part of territorial empires from the East to the West and is perhaps an example of humanity as the rational animal where the goal for the common good is subsumed in the colonizer. Here the universal common good posited by Plato is not realized, nor the dharma that holds all together where my good is sacrificed for the greater good.
An account that reveals the inhumanity of colonialism is told in the book, The Colonizer and the Colonized (1965: Memmi). The author is a Tunisian writing about his failure as a human being to realize this humanity, as he struggled to overthrow the French colonization of Algeria in the 1950’s. His is a philosophical discourse that goes against the grain of Western Platonic thought but introduces another way to look at the nature of the forming of contemporary New Zealanders. Memmi believes both colonized and colonizer are formed by their reactions to their environment in which their choices are made. Out of these choices their human essence is revealed, so the notion of reason as freedom to choose defines the nature of a human being (existentialism). This freedom to choose is revealed in our actions, which then define our essence, the reverse of all Western philosophy, which followed Platonic thought that essence comes first and this defines what action is taken.
Freedom for Shaw (2000) is more than not reacting to inner and outer compulsions but supremely transcending any selfish motive, the categorical imperative of Kant. This going beyond the being attached to the result of any good action, leaves the human being totally free to see all the world as one’s relation, the holistic Maori virtue ethics. Maori as colonized and Pakeha as colonizers are dealing with a history of this non-freedom. To the extent that new choices are made that go beyond selfish motives, the nature of human being in this time and space of Aotearoa New Zealand will be both dharma and tikanga. This going beyond will mean an unselfishness, where even the motive of doing good to get pleasure from it, is absent. This concept is present in Vivekananda’s ‘oneness’ where harmony between all peoples and creation is possible in this life by pursuing knowledge of tikanga (nature of a thing), practicing love that does not discriminate between the I and the You because we are all one, and taking unselfish actions to alleviate the suffering of others.
At present the institutional relationship between Maori and Pakeha is based on degrees of compensatory justice for resources taken, both physical (land) and metaphysical (mana) (Waitangi Tribunal reports). But new choices as actions to promote harmony beyond the institutional distinction will require a ‘heart seeing’ of this ‘oneness.’ In this examination of the nature of human beings in Aotearoa, to what extent in time can the actions of the colonizer be projected and still be relevant in relationship with the colonized? Is there a cut-off point when cultural norms have absorbed the inequality and neutralized the forces by which colonization came to be, where the nature of a human being as identity blurs?
Drawing from the Indian philosophical tradition is Gayatri Spivak, who speaks of these identity crises in the post-colonial individual, where the desire for neutrality and/or desire for the Other articulates itself (1990:vii). Spivak also says her experience of being seen as a representative Third World feminist is one where she has been written. She accepts this history and so negotiates the structures of violence of Western hegemony from where she is obliged to inhabit. Fanon warned of reifying a ‘true’ national past and said where the people presently dwell is a ‘zone of occult instability’(1969:174-190). The issues involved in identity can be teased out by following this colonial path to see if there is a ‘post’ or life after colonisation. Albert Memmi presaged Fanon’s description of life in a French colony and says the unequal relationship continues as long as the exploitation is needed by the colonizer to define himself and thus define the colonized. “The colonial situation manufactures colonizers as it manufactures colonies.” This imposition of a culture presages the superiority of one set of cultural values over another, rather than the acceptance of each others values.
Integration is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as to unite and amalgamate by combining. As an official settlement policy however, it is already in the hands of those in authority who will interpret just what will be combined from which cultures. But the focus needs to be ‘virtue ethics’-based, on the goal of unity. For our discussion from a Maori methodology of the nature of a bi-cultural person of Aotearoa, we need to consider Memmi’s thesis that colonizers carry their own contradiction, “were the colonized to disappear, so would colonization with the colonizer.”
Two questions. Has colonization disappeared in Aotearoa? And can the colonized become colonizers themselves? Sartre, who wrote the introduction to Memmi’s book in 1957, was optimistic that colonization was facing its death struggle. As a Frenchman he saw France as being crushed under the burden of the colony of Algeria. He also took solace from Marx’s belief that the proletariat carried within it the destruction of bourgeois society. Sartre assumed we live in a society of oppression and exploitation but said the individual always had to take responsibility for their actions, as this defined his or her essence. As the father of Existentialist philosophy he said one is never identical with one’s current state but remains responsible sustaining it. This he called authenticity, and choices to oppress or consciously exploit others could not be authentic but were to be seen as ‘bad faith.’ Therefore a moral stand had to be taken, because if not, the exploitation might be against X today and tomorrow Y and so on.
His early philosophy reflected the freedom of the existential individual to relieve the suffering of others and the latter part of his life (1905-1980) concentrated on the socioeconomic and historical conditions which limited and modified that freedom. This practice is known as Existentialism as Humanism. Sartre resisted complete economic determinism through his appeal to his humanist motto that “you can always make something out of …..…”. For his support of the Algerian War, a bomb was detonated outside his apartment. (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2004).
So Sartre’s philosophy as humanist, offers hope to both colonizer and colonized, and in Aotearoa, to Maori along with Pakeha. For the bi-cultural of Aotearoa, they are doubly blessed.
My second question relates to my own whakapapa on my Irish side. Memmi (1965:45-46) comes closest to the conflicted character of the colonizer when he talks about contrasting an immigrant and a colonist by birth, an immigrant adopting the doctrine more slowly. Memmi says the immigrant who comes for the express purpose of enjoying colonial benefits is prepared to accept anything and so will become a colonialist by vocation. No matter what happens he justifies everything, the officials and the system.
It’s this talk of not seeing poverty and injustice right under his nose that reminds me of an example of this from my Irish grandmother. The occasion was the centenary of the NZ Post Office, and an Oral Archives researcher interviewing her about her life. When asked about her experience of the Great Depression, she said the only Maori she saw in Gisborne at the time, were sitting in the gutter. In another account of Depression times, it was said that everyone was down on their luck and few were spared the indignity of despair and desperation. At that time, Maori were the majority in that district and my grandmother’s own daughter had already brought the first Maori (my father) into their home, who she disapproved of. It was her father, Patrick McCann who had left Ireland in the mid nineteenth century to try his hand at gold prospecting in Australia and after having some success, moved on the goldfields of the West Coast of the South Island. We don’t know if he found more gold there but he opened a hotel in Addison’s Flat. He married an Irish woman who had come out from Tralee, not wanting to be a maid for her brothers. They seem to fit Memmi’s definition of immigrants wanting to enjoy colonial benefits.
It seems at this point I must accept Memmi’s point that their prior Irish history of exploitation by the English does not change the system into which they must slot. They are the new colonizers supported by a system that makes them what they are. Their realization of this and what is necessary, ensues in varying degrees, that they accept their condition. Like Memmi’s Francophiles, my Irish forebears had an ambivalent attitude to the homeland. My great-grandfather, was said by my grandmother, to have rejected an inheritance to be shared with his brothers and harboured no sentimental feelings about ‘home.’ Though in his adopted land, Irish rancor against the English remained in oral histories of the McCann and O’Gorman families. New Zealand historian, Michael King writes of this remembrance of oppressive history continuing through in New Zealand English and Scottish strains (King 1985: 24).
So while my Irish O’Gorman and McCann ancestors could be seen to have benefitted from the colonization of Aotearoa in that they participated in the benefits of civil infrastructure such as roading, electricity and housing, what of the legacy of my Kahungunu and Te Aitanga a Mahaki ancestors? On Memmi’s reckoning, as long as the benefits accruing to the colonizers keep coming at the expense to the colonized, then colonization continues. How could that living have been lived out in my life as a combination of colonizer and colonized? The mixed race descendent is an unfortunate fellow says Memmi, understanding everyone because he belongs completely to no-one (xvi). Memmi (1965: x, 90 – 153) says the first response of the colonized is to imitate the colonizer along with the subsequent rejection of indigenous culture. This period may take some years but inevitably the colonized realizes assimilation is not possible and the only option is revolt.
But Memmi (126 – 127) makes a telling point about the nature of the revolt that describes the Maori renaissance in Aotearoa and indigenous movements around the world. “A collective drama will never be settled through individual solutions. The individual disappears in his lineage and the group drama goes on.” He says in order for the assimilation of the colonized to have purpose and meaning, it would have to affect an entire people and the whole colonial situation be changed. And the colonizer is not prepared to put an end to the privileges as they extend in time, because that would put an end to himself.
An example of this group drama continuing today, is what Dirlik notes as both New Zealand and Australia being seen as in the Pacific but not of it. By this, I think he means, New Zealand and Australian participate as colonial powers giving or with-holding funding dependent on our joint policies. Dirlik says it was subordination of indigenous populations that realized this identification as the ‘not belonging’ of the colonizer (Dirlik 1998:352). It is this ‘not belonging’ that has been a feature of some of the rhetoric of the Maori cultural renaissance in Aotearoa. Some Maori have asserted their culture as ‘more’ belonging than Pakeha culture because of prior occupation but some Pakeha have rejected that by saying Maori are immigrants themselves.
But the debate is not about degrees of belonging but willingness to share resources as all the world is your relation. Memmi says a negative attitude by indigenous peoples develops towards colonizers en bloc, as all Europeans seem potential colonizers. This xenophobia stems from having been dehumanized and projecting this on others but it can be healed by European voices speaking out against the inhumanity of the colonized (131). But the way back for Memmi, is the colonized first finding within pride in the differences that before caused shame. The former lowly dialect of the native language is revived along with forgotten traditions to verify and re-create unity. There is a risk that the means become the ends, but the myths are regenerated dangerously beyond the limited intentions of the colonized leaders. And in this period of revolt, everything of the customs and traditions are good, a counter myth to the old negative one about the lazy native. This description could be seen as the imposition of values or a value judgment, couched in ways that sometimes are unconsciously hidden from the speaker.
Perhaps my grandmother was unaware of this ‘lazy native’ meaning when she talked of Maori sitting in the gutter during the Great Depression. But it suggests a superiority or exploitation that can never be justified by an ‘authentic’ life, nor by selfishness that denies the ‘oneness’ of human beings and creation. Memmi points out that self-assertion is still defined by the protest as the relationship of colonization (139).
Moustapha Safouan (2007) cites the Egyptian people as an example of historical enslavement through denial by despotic rulers of the use of the vernacular Arabic in writing as a truth-telling instrument and as a result, people were not able to communicate in solidarity. The preference for the classical Arabic of the Quran, limited who could express the ‘truth’. He sees the modern Arab world as being the victim, expressed now in oppressive fundamentalism where the spiritual power of the Prophet of Islam has been subverted by an unchallengeable temporal subjectivity. This is linguistic imperialism. The vernacular as sacred language and linked cosmology, is still being re-interpreted as an empowered Maori identity, along with cultural tradition as one of the sources of knowledge.
Imagined Communities, (Anderson 1991) says the secular Enlightenment ‘model’, such as followed by Egypt, broke the back of native peoples the world over, specifically the idea that sacred language spoke the truth, that tribal leaders had divine rule and that cosmology was linked to humans. Bede Griffiths (1983:100) says the mythic level spoke this truth to all civilizations and was common to Greece, India, China and Arabia and the natives peoples throughout the Pacific. “….Every being is lucid to every other in breadth and depth, light runs through light and each of them contains all within itself…..” (Plotinus, Enneads 5:8:4)
The Maori renaissance was enabled by the global social movements of the 60’s onwards, although Maori protest against colonization began soon after the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1844/45 with petitions and deputations to governments in New Zealand and Britain and more recently, The United Nations in New York. An example of one such petition in 1984 was to protest against the Rotorua District Council proposing the construction of an effluent pipeline into the Kaituna River. The tribal guardians, Ngati Pikiao “were opposed to the discharge upon the grounds that it would pollute the river which had special significance for them, and convey the pollutants to the tribal shellfish and fin fish fisheries of Maketu on the coast…..the discharge of human or animal wastes to water used for bathing and supporting food and plant life offended their spiritual and cultural values…”
Memmi says a colonized revival has an emphasis on language and culture but also accompanied by substantial land and resource claims. Unlike the French colonization of Algeria, Maori had negotiated a treaty that has been the legal basis of redress in Aotearoa. The bad faith that Memmi says the colonized feels for his part in accepting the trappings of the colonizer, results in negative attribution to a ‘Pakeha way of doing things.’ It also has its counter in Pakeha saying they are not responsible for the actions of their ancestors or representatives of the British Crown. More liberal guilt suggests Waitangi Tribunal compensation will make up for it.
My belief, is that a Maori elite have been formed in the renaissance, and are well-placed to take their seats at the colonizer’s table. Soon I will return to a definition of this elitism as incorporating a liminal, uncertain cultural belief (Bhabha 1990). But for now, their actions and philosophy reveal a conflict of interests. While reclaiming a people deficient in body and spirit, a frozen tradition, a rusted tongue, the institutions of the colonizer have been shunned even if Maori have been the first to be inconvenienced, preferring a “long period of educational mistakes to the continuance of the colonizer’s school organization.”
Memmi could be talking about the saga of the Labour government’s accusations of fraud and inappropriate courses at Maori wananga in 2004. After the media smoke cleared, it appeared what was inappropriate, was that wananga had adapted too successfully to government funding criteria for courses based on ‘bums on seats’ and some governance shortcuts had been taken.
“Before and during the revolt, the colonized always considers the colonizer as a model or as an antithesis. He continues to struggle against him.”(Memmi 1965:141) Memmi’s conclusion is that the alienation will cease when the economic and political exploitation which makes colonization tick, also ceases. So that extent we could ask how far Maori are exploited today as potential sites of power. Or in other words, a strong identity expressed as one having autonomous power. What Maori writers, Poata-Smith, Russell and others term ‘bi-culturalism,’ can be seen as a type of ‘limited’ autonomy of ‘middle-aged power brokers and tribal capitalists,’ as an elite.
Bhabha says the boundaries and limits are in-between places where the meanings of cultural and political authority are negotiated (1990:4). Where the negotiating is taking place, Maori are unequally situated, at the invitation of State sponsored institutions, who can change the agenda at will. Even now, the Waitangi Tribunal follows Western jurisprudence in that a claim has to be filed by an individual before the collective tribal drama can be heard. So it is a very limited participation that Maori have in the decision-making processes of Aotearoa. As Memmi put it, a collective drama will never be settled with individual solutions as the individual disappears in his lineage and the group drama goes on.
Today that group drama identifies Maori as possessing little individual power, at the bottom of nearly all socio-economic indicators, such as incarceration, health, education, business, life chances and life expectancy. As far as political exploitation goes, the sovereignty battle has turned into economic dependence on treaty settlements.
Instead of independence in ‘tino rangatiratanga’ (full autonomy or following Perrett’s ‘ought to’ virtues of chiefliness), tribal Maori have been individualized and isolated as citizen voters and allocated seven seats in parliament. The seats are many times the size of general electorates and very difficult to service. They are also not entrenched in law, along with the Treaty of Waitangi. And so Maori representation is susceptible to political whim. ACT leader Rodney Hide has successfully resisted the Maori Party call for statutory Maori representation on an Auckland ‘super-city’ council.
In 2004, the then leader of the National Party said he planned to abolish the Maori electoral seats as outmoded and racist. Racism is defined in the Collins Dictionary as the treatment of some people as inferior because of their race, so it is hard to see how having seven Maori electoral seats while there are nearly a hundred General seats constitutes treating non-Maori as inferior. A more useful definition of racism is one where the inferior treatment is enforced by the exercise of power (Spoonley 1993).
Thus in this light, the Treaty of Waitangi could be seen as racist. This is a stance of some Maori who take the date of 1835 as the establishment of an independent Northern tribal entity recognized by the British representative, Busby. But the power imbalance remains as the entity was artificially created to ‘treat’ with the British crown in the treaty at Waitangi in 1840 (Durie 1998:53)
So perhaps Memmi’s definition of colonization as the prime site of identity as power, continues in Aotearoa. What was his solution? Memmi says his book was not born as a search for solutions but a reflection on an accepted failure. He says many who rejected the face of Europe in the Tunisian colony, only wanted to have their rights recognized. But when he sketched the faces of the two protagonists, the colonizer and the colonized, he realized colonization had inherent contradictions that would cause it to die. The clue is the mother countries, having abandoned colonization and the colonies having been abandoned, must discover new ways of living with that relationship.
For Memmi the new order starts in oneself. The nationalist must be assertive but it must be a free choice, religion can be chosen but one must stop existing through it. The same applies to the past, tradition, ethnic characteristics etc. Finally there must be a stop to defining oneself through the categories of colonizers. Sartre says Memmi is right in expressing his ideas “……. in the order of discovery, his human intentions and felt relationships.” As an existentialist, Sartre believed human beings define their existence in their choices which then reveal their essence, not the reverse as commonly held by Western philosophers from Plato onwards, where essence is given, then existence springs forth. Memmi’s freedom as identity is neither metaphysical nor psychological. It is concrete, lived in the present (1965:145 – 153).
Thus freedom also adds to our concept of identity as empowerment. For Sartre, the freedom of choice for the individual has a Kantian element, an ethical dimension of what ‘ought to’ be done. For Kant it was called the categorical imperative or concept of duty, free will as good will, not as a means to some further end, but unconditioned good in itself, bringing happiness. But because of his religious background, he saw it as not the whole good, needing the promise of an afterlife with God to be completed.
Sartre argued against an ego or self when he posited action as preceding essence. And so his ethical stance comes from taking individual responsibility for choices made. If not a person could absolve themselves from choices made by saying,’ that’s just how I am, or how I was brought up or I’m a Maori and just a victim of racism.’ For Sartre, free will excluded choices to oppress or exploit and was seen as ‘bad faith.’.
For pre-colonial Maori, a world-view of unempowered identity was unthinkable. John Patterson in his book, People of the Land: A Pacific Philosophy (2000) singles out the principles of mauri, mana and tapu as the main philosophic operatives of human identity. Mauri acknowledges the life force of all creation, mana is the authority or power in the use of mauri and tapu is the regulator of the creative human interaction. But these signifiers that formed human identity as Maori, were severely compromised in the assimilation and later integration of Maori into a Pakeha world.
Integration has come to mean a forced acceptance of another’s values and identity, rather than a unifying through what is common, as is promoted through the non-dualistic Advaita Vedanta of Vivekananda’s ‘oneness’ of all creation as Maori holism. Because of the dominance of democratic capitalism, the signifiers for modern-day Maori identity are framed within the ideological parameters of mana as economic power and authority (Pearson & Thorns 1983). As such, it limits the true expression of the authentic life, as expressed in the balance between mauri, mana and tapu, the freedom to practise, what Perrett (2003:255-268) claims as, traditional Maori ethics based on a philosophy of virtues. He says the absence of prescriptive biblical codes in Maori was not a lack of morals but rather a cultivation by all, of a certain excellence of character, that of a rangatira or noble person.
My dad considered the real rangatira were those who served their people by taking care of their own whanau first and then attending to the community work that needed doing. He cited Maori Welfare Officers helping other families while their own whanau was on the street. Some fifty years later, this definition of rangatira virtue has been further refined in Maori health promotion as attending to your own needs, not as selfishness, but as an acknowledgement that you are an investment for the total well-being of future generations. This reflects whakapapa (extending the genealogical base) as never-ending beginnings.
This is a new interpretation of Perret’s belief that the openness of the traditional Maori world allowed for individual mana to be expressed within a moral kinship group that made up the communal good. True rangatiratanga of this communal sort, needs to be the nature of bi-cultural human beings of Aotearoa, rather than the individual consumption of Western capitalism. Also because the whakapapa (base) of the Maori gods includes all creation, human and non-human (nature) as a dynamic relationship, offense against the tapu (sacredness) and mana (authority) has consequences for the future. Maori socio-health as a contemporary collective concern rather than the Aristotlean agent-centered Pakeha model of individuals and the infringement against both humans and non-humans (the environment), affects the mana whenua (caring for the land) and the environment.
Patterson (Exploring Maori Values, 1992, 100-115) says the ideal values were embodied in the noble chief, which translates as ‘tino rangatiratanga.’ This word has become the catchphrase of the Maori independence movement and has become suborned by the Maori Party as a political slogan. However the ideal values are subject to anti-human thought and aimed at material release rather than the good of the world as your relation. The current definition had its birth in the social upheaval of the 1960’s as described by social science (Durie 1998). Walker (Shirley 1982:72) defines this tino rangatiratanga, Maori self-determination, as ‘development from below: institutional transformation in a plural society.’ He uses Freire’s ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ to describe Maori society under themes of cultural invasion, political domination and manipulation.
Walker (1996:13) says the traditional Maori world view is contained in whakapapa, the description of the phenomenological world in the form of a genealogical recital. Implicit in the meaning were the ideas of orderliness, sequence, evolution and progress. The past conceived of as being in front of (mua) human consciousness, as only past and present are knowable. Muri, meaning behind, is where the future comes from because it cannot be seen. Thus the past and present, as a single field of knowledge, means narratives and mythology are constantly referred to, to embellish the present. Walter Benjamin (1973) refers to this seeing as the ‘Angel of History’, face turned to the past where instead of our perception of a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe caused by the storm of progress.
Further western views describe it as strategic postmodernism in line with Foucault’s assertion that you must leave the world in order to write its history (Lemert 1995:82). The contrast between traditional Maori and Pakeha views of time has been modified. Just as quantum science confirmed Einstein’s view that time was just as aspect of space and it is subject to manipulation, so Maori have moved from what was seen as ‘Maori time’ and adapted to Western ‘on time.’ However these views of life, such as by traditional Maori, have been described by Witgenstein as ‘a form of life,’ characterized by unselfish attitudes, no egos, the betterment of all and total life participatory sharing.
Tohunga (mediator) Marsden described it as holistic describing Io Taketake, the ground of being. So an essential part of identity is being able to practice it. The lived struggle of Maori, noted by Walker, has produced a begrudging practice of values where the justice ethics sought by Maori today sublimate the balancing of Perrett’s virtue ethics of mana, mauri and tapu. Little mention is made of ‘aroha’ which for most Pakeha is translated as love, or manaakitanga, translated as hospitality, when I was told it was ‘blessing.’
Because love itself has become debased as a catch-all phrase in a consumer society, the Buddhist ‘compassion’ is much closer to the mark. Aroha is an attitude of understanding, and respect. Manaaki is the application of that in blessing and I believe Maori need to practice it amongst themselves first, to then apply it to non-Maori or Pakeha. My thinking is that, if Maori identity is bound up in re-discovered or re-invented tradition, then a return to what that tradition says about the ultimate reality is also needed to put it in perspective.
One of the last modern tohunga or mediators of tikanga, Maori Marsden, says the ultimate reality is wairua or spirit and as Io Taketake, is the first cause or ground of being, the spirit is imminent in sustaining mauri as the breath of life principle. Thus man is both human and divine as an integral part of the cosmic process and natural order. That is why he says the Maori philosophical approach to life is holistic, with no sharp division between culture, society and their institutions (Marsden 2000:20). Seen in this light, the clash between Pakeha and Maori has not only been a physical one, through land wars, but also a metaphysical one expressed in the competing philosophies behind the government institutions, like the law courts, Education, Justice and Social Services, for the Maori mind. It has been cultural difference that has defined a shifting identity for Maori now heavily based on justice ethics and economic determinism.
However behind this shop-front, the concept of sharing still operates but as registered tribal members able to access the compensatory settlements. A more common sharing is as fractured land-owners being called to endless hui (meetings) to respond to government or local body legislation over their individual 0.0008 hectare holdings that have been further amalgamated or zoned. The natural sharing that used to epitomize Maori values is now most publically seen in the sharing of communal grief at tangihanga (funerals) such as for entertainer, Sir Howard Morrison or at regional and national cultural performances of kapa haka (posture dance), waiata (song) and Maori language speaking.
Kelsey (1990) has said that the treaty sovereignty claims of Maori of the 1970’s were subverted by the State into economic issues. Maori treaty negotiators and former Treaty ministers recently (May 8,2009) acknowledged this, when they told a parliamentary conference that article one treaty tribal rights of ‘tino rangatiratanga’ (sovereignty) had been traded to deliver article two citizenship rights. In effect, an acknowledgement that successive government treaty policy since the Maori protests, has been to use tribal ‘Iwi’ authorities to deliver citizenship benefits, normally seen to be the preserve of individuals and normally delivered by the State.
The resource claims settlements have been for millions of dollars but conditional on Iwi having current lists of tribal beneficiaries who can access tribal funds for scholarships etc. But knowledge about whakapapa to sign up to be an Iwi beneficiary is the preserve of less than ten percent of Maori who have knowledge of ‘te ao Maori, ’ or identity as power to define (Durie: 1998). As Memmi put it, a collective drama will never be settled with individual solutions as the individual disappears in his lineage and the group drama goes on.
All those centuries ago, Aristotle argued that the Polis (the State) exists according to nature because it originates for the sake of life and continues to exist for the sake of the good life. But as Maori have found, the ultimate good translated as ‘flourishing or happiness’, is quite different from the concept of utility, which is the basis of modern welfare economics. Miller (1983:29) says an Aristotlean form of government is held to be best when all can act well and live happily, and State programs are necessary in as much as removing impediments to flourishing.
Aristotle’s virtue ethics come from choice not legislation, so the politician is only establishing a framework in which happiness can be attained. Former Maori negotiators and State Ministers of Treaty Negotiations are in agreement that social harmony is more feasible when economic harmony between Maori and the State has agreed on judicial guidelines. That’s also the conclusion that historian Michael King says acknowledges Maori as the foundation human culture of the land, and explicit in a special relationship with the government of New Zealand via the Treaty of Waitangi.
Much of the foregoing philosophical discussion has not figured in the ‘hard’ sociology of Maori writer, Poata-Smith. But perhaps a Maori methodology is needed to add its contribution to the New Zealand mix of cultural studies. McLennan says while people in cultural studies can be concerned with structures and categories of differentiation, that’s not optional for sociologists (McLennan 2006:43). I think such a Maori methodology could reinterpret tradition not as frozen pedagogy but in the light of a performing culture today, which is what Poata-Smith wants addressed. Thus the ethical aroha and manaaki could be used with the empowering mana and tapu to give a more depth-ed New Zealand perspective on market capitalism, democratic representation and restorative and compensatory justice.
The point is to not a return to the past but a reassertion of values as new vision to deal with the hegemony that denies value to native traditions (Dirlik 1998:364). Some of the Maori values are to be accepted by all, for the betterment of all. For example, aroha (compassion), would be a better New Zealand Foreign Affairs’ response to the native peoples of Fiji trying to establish harmony between races, than economic sanctions and bullying. Such non-Maori sources plot their own paradigmatic way on the issues of identity, colonization and culture and the nature of binary opposition that the Aoteroan context expresses as Maori and Pakeha values.
And contrary to Australian and New Zealand foreign policy, the conceptions of Pacific people and their view of the world are needed to first liberate Pacific Rim minds from past hegemonic consciousness, for the military, political and economic longing gaze to cease (Dirlik 1998:352). Others like Spivak, Bhabha and Said have addressed the question of the Other that appears to have become immersed with the problematic boundaries of modernity.
The imagined communities of Benedict Anderson paved the way for the view of the ambivalent nation that writes itself like a realistic novel. It is a becoming that both acknowledges its pedagogies and pedigrees of national unity and then forgets it by marginalizing this unity in the perplexity of daily living. Bhabha expresses this as people emerging in the finitude of nation, marking the liminality of cultural identity. In Aotearoa this is the emergence of Maori identity in Auckland ‘supercity representation’ as an agonistic boundary of cultural difference that never quite adds up, the supplementary position to the metropolitan (Pakeha) centre (Bhabha 1990:318-320).
Said expressed background identity as filiation and affiliation as what takes over when all other forms break down (Said:2004), where people can be seen as metaphors, a sort of ‘doubleness’ in writing that moves between cultural formations and social processes (Bhabha:293). A secular translation is needed rather than the traditional pedagogical interpretation of privileged visibility (Bhabha:3). However McLennan counsels against discourse highlighting performance and liminality rather than structural positioning because he says it’s futile to think any distinctive analytical discourse can capture the raw edge of life (McLennan 2006:97).
So my conclusion in this discussion of identity as a facet of the nature of a human being, is fluid in keeping with Said’s dictum and raw as in McLennan’s. Just as the Palestinian people were not written into existence until the 1967 emergence of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (Said:2004), Maori identity is emerging as a social process between cultural formations. What is encouraging, is that it is paralleled by a search for a New Zealand identity. So it can be seen that my argument for acceptance rather than imposition of values has a chance of better success.
As we have traced the meanings of the nature of human beings as functions, goals or identities, we’ve looked at particulars in the Aristotlean sense, of Maori and Pakeha people in this country of Aotearoa/New Zealand. What we need to look at in this final part is the context of the word ‘bi-cultural’ as it is used in New Zealand, and how we can marry this concept to the Eastern, Advaita Vedanta.view.
King (2003:467) sees biculturalism as Maori-Pakeha relations in the context of a gradual move in the 1970’s to down play the Anglo-Celtic heritage, which had previously been the only basis for public policy-making. It was a belated recognition of ethnic diversity within New Zealand where there were a hundred thousand Pacific Islanders by the end of the 70’s and growing number of Asian immigrants. King says the recognition was driven by Maori activism as the major institutions of State, law and public service lagged behind. In his History of New Zealand, he then goes on to claim a second indigenous role for Pakeha alongside that of Maori in a ‘mutuality of respect.’ He says this developing stance of Pakeha grew out of a realization, that just as Maori culture needed recognition to develop, so too Pakeha culture was different and changing from the cultures of origin.. He acknowledges the mainstream culture is still dominantly Pakeha but says New Zealanders accept this approach called bi-culturalism, through which all have to negotiate, be they community organisations or individuals. He believes the New Zealander virtues of good-heartedness and tolerance are the recipe for harmony.
Griffiths (1983:30) says the myths of primitive peoples have all been seen as ways to set man free from his isolation and restore him to unity with himself and the universe. The mythic Vedas of India captured this reality and the Upanishads submitted this world to philosophical investigations. He says the Vedanta is the most profound and systematic study of the ultimate nature of Reality to be found in the history of the world. The bearing this has on our discussion is that it will lift our discourse out of the realm of ‘the nature of human beings in Aotearoa’ to the ultimate nature of man and the universe. This was the central focus of the Advaita Vedanata of Vivekananda, to draw on ‘oneness’ as unity when differences between different peoples, cultures, religion and philosophy seem to divide us. (Shaw 1994: 129).
Just as he was a prophetic voice addressing the World Council of Religions in 1896 as “Brothers and Sisters,” a contemporary voice has been the Chief Rabbi, Sir Johnathan Sacks at the 2008 Lambeth Conference in Britain. Speaking to the reconciliation between Christians and Jews, he said it was not the fittest that survive but the altruistic. “Remembering the past can change the future, let us be a blessing to the world.”
This is the Cosmic Revelation, the ultimate Truth given to all mankind through the Cosmos, that is, through the creation. In the Hebrew tradition it is preserved in the story of the Covenant with Noah who represented the Father of all mankind. From the beginning, humankind recognized a hidden power behind nature and its own consciousness. All was enveloped in a cosmic whole. As discernment developed as reason and rationality, there was distinction between these powers of nature as the powers of ‘gods’ and his own powers of knowing himself as a conscious being. As long as the sense of the whole remained as a consciousness of heart and mind, he could experience his oneness with the whole creation. But this vision of the universe has been split, Griffith says, by the Western mind, which sees two halves, conscious and unconscious, mind and matter, soul and body. Since the Renaissance, the unitive vision of the Middle Ages was lost. The rational mind separates matter, mind and spirit as extended outside of us (Plato’s Heaven and Aristotle’s types and Kant’s levels).
In reality the world we see is penetrated by our consciousness, a world mirrored in the human mind. But beyond both mind and matter is the further principle of Spirit (mauri) that interpenetrates both mind and matter and is the source of both energy and consciousness (1983:57). The Upanishads, as philosophic investigations of the source of ultimate Reality, are the base of Advaita Vedanta. This ‘non dualism’ going beyond the dichotomy of dualism seeks to integrate as one but not two, just as the singer and the song can’t be separated but they are not two. Another example is of God dancing the world. Where is the separation between the dancer and the dance?
Pandit Shastri (2000:120) says the duality of the world is not useless if it leads to the realization of the falsity and variety of the dual world. Therefore the world and its knowledge can lead to the highest realization and liberation. Also the final realization is not reaching or possessing something new, but “realizing what sadhaka really is and was all along.” The realization is that it was always there, just covered with ignorance. “ One who knows Brahman becomes Brahman Itself.” Thus liberation is the repelling of the darkness of ignorance and thereby resting in the real Divine Identity (122).
Advaita Vedanta had words for contemporary American women at a conference in 1997 in Calcutta. The feminine principle of receptivity was seen by Shankara, in his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, as Sri Krishna’s divine power. In Shankara’s time, the female counterpart of the avatar had evolved to encompass divine power and its personification, the divine consort. The principle of feminine divinity is rooted back past the Vedic age to perhaps a pre-Aryan worship. One commentator says this feminine side was swamped by the patriarchal male gods of the Aryan pantheon and the Upanishads signalled her return.
Sarada Devi, is written about as an exemplar of womanhood as a wife of a nineteenth century Hindu saint, Ramakhrishna. Her status as a guru within the Hindu movement, came after centuries of social displacement behind men and ineligibility of women for Vedic study, by which they could attain moksa or liberation. But Devi’s spiritual significance was recognized by Ramakrishna’s disciple, Swami Vivekananda, as the Divine Mother of the order. Her practice of accepting all castes and classes, along with the duties of the household, raised the notion of subservience to the spiritual ideal of service.
This is the lesson for Western feminists struggling with feminist resistance to feminist subservience and juggling childcare and caring for aged parents (2000:134). China, as the biggest and oldest neighbor to India, understandably developed spiritual practices in line with Vedanta. Hunter (2000:273) compares Vedanta and Chinese Buddhism where devotion had to be expressed in humanitarian practice. While monks might carry on the teaching of these wisdoms, the ordinary people were expected to be reflecting the devotional faith by living good lives following ethical rules of conduct, avoiding stealing, lying, illicit sexual activity, abuse of drugs and so on.
The commentary of Madhva on the Isavasya Upanisad is revealing for its emphasis on the fruits of karmas in the striving to know the ultimate Reality. Madhva says worship through performance of karmas should be done through fitness and with devotion, anythingl contrary to this is adharma, against dharma. We have seen that dharma is that which supports. Karmas should be God-centered, as whatever one does with the body, speech, mind or senses, reason or intellect or the force of inherited nature (1996:55). To know Brahman is to perform karmas, “in a spirit of detachment with the notion that all are to be surrendered unto Brahman..…. He who performs his duties by abandoning the attachment to the fruits thereof and dedicates his deeds to Brahman is untainted by sin as a lotus flower by water.”
Griffiths, in his appraisal of Indian Vedic revelation, says its development through the Advaita Vedanta study of the Upanisads, is the most well-preserved account of the unity of Reality that has been largely lost to the West and disappearing also in the East. Joshi (1996:73) says Hinduism is an admixture of Revelation, Reason and Action. Paramount importance is given to experience, while reason and action are supposed to be instrumental to spiritual realization or moksa. He says instead of the moksa of the seers, there is a one-sided other-worldly outlook of social stratification in the name of dharma blind faith, superstition and a closed society. Dogmatism has killed the spirit of inquiry and religion has become the story of human bondage. With the advent of science and technology, discovery of nature through experiment and understanding of natural laws, humans have entered a new age.
What Joshi is describing, is that disappearing reality that Griffiths referred to. Joshi’s solution? A Common Civil Code to prevent the usurpation of the Indian tolerance for religion that is enshrined in the constitution but exploited by fundamental or terrorist groups. He says the Indian constitution should be treated as the New Dharmasastra, meant for all citizens. People also need to be educated in the moral and spiritual teachings of the seers and saints, which is true religion. India should be seen as culture rather than as a land of religions and universal religion should be promoted to safeguard national unity and human survival (1996,75-76). Here the concept of religion, in the Western sense of dogma, is absent.
This absence of dogma as rules was reflected in the formation of the Ringatu Church, when the Prophet, Rua Kenana, gave the Presbyterian preacher the administrative functions and took on himself the day to day ministering to his Tuhoe people. Moon (2003) says Kereopa was ambivalent about the distinctions as rules that evolved in Ringatu ritual observances. Of course what is being faced here, is the nature of human beings living universally and the Buddhist conception of life as suffering.
India could be seen to swamp Aotearoa’s biculturalism, with its myriad of peoples of varying ethnicities, races, classes, castes. However it does share a commonality with New Zealand and the rest of the world, a dominant Western mainstream culture. Where I am appealing to a Maori consciousness of the ultimate Reality, India itself is here being appealed to as that consciousness. As I have already shown, Maori are appearing as part of a social process in the cultural transformation of the dominant mainstream of Aotearoa. And they are bringing this transformation to Pakeha by what historian, King says, are the showings of a indigeneity or belonging.
I believe I have depth-ed this discussion of the nature of bi-cultural human beings in Aotearoa through a philosophical examination of meanings. I have pointed to a potential realization of the ultimate good of Aristotle, the tikanga of Maori, the Heaven of Plato, the Advaita of the Vedanta and ‘the world as your relation,’ of Vivekananda. Maori and Pakeha are embarked upon a journey of realization as harmony, not just for me, my whanau, my hapu, my tribe or my nation but for you and me as the universe. Maori need to both show more aroha amongst themselves in allowing a wider affiliation of contemporary Maori identity, even as they acknowledge a more fluid boundary for outward representation ‘beyond binary’ in a plural world.
This offer of an inclusive identification with Maori as natural or native, to Other New Zealanders, would allow all New Zealanders to come home as indigenous also. Hutia te rito o te harakeke, kei whea te komako e ko. Ki mai, he aha te mea nui i te ao, maku e ki atu, he tangata, he tangata, he tangata. Rip out the heart of the flax-bush and where will the bellbird land? If you ask me what is the most important creation in the world, it is people, it is people, it is people.
Aitanga a Mahaki: copulations of Mahaki (ancestor) south Gisborne.
Aotearoa: ‘land of long white cloud’ as seen by early voyagers to New Zealand.
aroha: love or compassion atua: god(s)
hoa: friend hoa riri: angry friend (enemy)
Io: creator iwi: bones, tribe kaitiakitanga: nuturing all creation, caring for.
kapa haka: dance group, said of contemporary Maori traditional dance groups.
mana: influence, authority, universal good.
manaakitanga: hospitality, blessing, feeding.
mana whenua: local legitimacy
Maori: natural or native Maoriness: naturalness
mate: illness, disease, death.
mauri: life-force, spirit, essence
Ngati: piece of skin (from bones of skeleton), preface naming a tribe, e.g. Ngati Pikiao.
Ringatu: upraised hand, religion established by Te Kooti based on Old Testament experience of Jews searching for the Promised Land.
Rotorua: two lakes
tangata whenua: people of the land/earth or nature, and expressed philosophically as ‘belonging.’ Whenua is also the word for placenta, which is buried after birth in the ground and so becomes literally one with the land. Following this line of thought,
whanau also means to give birth as well as extended family. When a whanau expands, it grows into a
hapu, small sub-tribe.
tangihanga: wailing occasion, funeral
te: the, specific participle.
Te Po: the night, said of darkness before creation.
Te Korekore: the nothingness (before creation). and philosophically as ‘belonging.’
Te Ao Marama: the world of light, the world of being.
tikanga: the nature of a thing, what is right, custom, practice or value.
tino rangatiratanga: supreme chieftanship, independent authority.
wananga: school of learning, said of contemporary Maori universities.
whakapapa: laying the base, never ending beginnings, said of genealogy.
whanau: family, give birth
whenua: placenta , land.
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