I’ve been doing a law degree
at the University of Waikato
for the past year and a bit, and I recently came across a paper called Jurisprudence
. That means the study of law, if you wanted to know. Anyway, in said Jurisprudence paper (it might have been Public Law
A), we looked at the idea that the law should protect
minorities. A quick look at the late Nazi Germany
shows us that terrible things
can happen when the law neglects to protect these minorities. So our lecturer posed us a question: “So what? Who cares? So people don’t like the Jews, well, there are less of them, so sure, go ahead and kill them
No, not right (of course), we say. Because they’re minorities, so we should look out for them. “Why? Why should we look out for minorities? Greatest good for the greatest number, right?” And so we pondered. Why? Why look out for the minority? The immediate answers, of course, were the altruistic sort. “Because we should, and that’s that. Because it’s right. Because they don’t deserve to be treated badly. Because they didn’t choose to be a minority.” Of course, an altruistic answer isn’t really what they look for in law school. “Why,” she insisted, “Why don’t they deserve it? I’m sure they’ve done something bad. Who here hasn’t done something bad in their lives?” And so it went.
The answer, of course, is that the minority can change at any time. It is important that the law protect minorities, because damn it man, I could walk into a room full of angry basketball players that have just lost the game and they could look at me and say “Hey, he’s short, lets hit him.” And I don’t want that. I want the law to protect me when the tall people want to play hackey-sack with the short round guy. And, of course, the ballers want the law to look out for them when their step-father’s sisters cousins daughter invites them to an overeaters anonymous meeting and all of a sudden they’re surrounded by unhappy chubby people who’d just love to lynch the tall sporty guy.
Why am I writing this? Well, I’m terribly white. On the outside, anyway, I’m 100% pakeha. The other side of this is that I eat boil-up and rewena bread (or rewana, depending where you’re from), I am well interested in the Maori language, I married a Maori woman and, as it happens, her entire family, literally including her estranged mothers ex-boyfriend and his new family. So there you go. As tangata pakeha as I am, I certainly do have a large place in my heart for all things Aotearoa.
Anyway, the other day my wife and I drive up a house in South Auckand to get her best-friend. We’re going to pick her up and go out for a night in Auckland. We drive up the driveway, and she jumps out to get her friend. And over the next few seconds I realize a couple key things. I’m in South Auckland. I’m really, really white. There is a party going on here. In South Auckland. And everybody at the party is Maori. And I’m still in South Auckland. And then I realize that I’m suddenly very nervous.
Why? There was no rational reason for me to feel nervous. They hadn’t made any threatening gestures or anything. I’ll tell you why. Because all of a sudden I’m the minority. Traditionally, I’ve avoided South Auckland, for rather vague fears that I was indoctrinated with when I was somewhat younger and lived in West Auckland. But as of right then, all of those schoolyard warnings had been of no use, and I was sitting there in a moderately nice car, all on my white little lonesome.
Then it occurred to me how crappy it really is to be a minority. So many Maori people (the responsible sort that you’d like to meet in a dark alley) must wake up in the morning and say “Well shit. Today I’ve got to be perfect, because if I’m not, then everyone that sees me balls something up will consider me to be a representation of all the other Maori people that they’ve never met, and it’ll bring down public opinion of my race and culture.” Sure, that’s not what I was saying to myself in the car, but you get the idea. It’s really, really not a nice place, and it’s no wonder that so many minorities buckle under the pressure. Who’s to blame them if they fail high school? I had my course materials with me in that car, and I sure as hell didn’t feel like studying.
And that is when the lecture really sunk in for me. That’s why we have to look out for the minority groups. Because at any time, you could all of a sudden wake up and see that, bloddy hell, you’re surrounded by 1920’s gangsters and they’re all pointing their suits and guns at you, and you’re tied up in a chair, smelling of petrol. What does that mean? Damnit Jim I don’t know. But I do know that the minority/majority ratio can and does change in the blink of an eye. And then all those feelings of security and power that you had ten seconds ago have just up and left you all alone on the trip to minorityville, population: not many, but definitely including you.
So what the heck am I writing this for, anyway? I’m writing this to try to open everyone’s eyes, and have you say “Jeez, you know, I should look out for these guys, because someday, I’m likely to be surrounded by them when they’re angry, and I’d sure as hell like to have one person in the crowd say ‘Hey, I know him! He’s a good guy!’.” How about that guy who they’ve just found in New Zealand that worked for Saddam Hussein? “Wow, you worked for HIM? Get the hell outta my country.” Excuse me? Don’t we have anything better than that? EDS was a shitty place to work too, they ordered me to do things that I didn’t like, but once I quit the place, it’s not like I’m going to keep doing the things my manager made me do.
Of course, there must be something else. Wasn’t it Winston Peters that pulled this guy’s unlucky name out of the hat and said “Do you realize this man is in New Zealand?” Surely, Hon. Winston must have something worse on him than “You had a crap job. You worked for a really truly bad dictator, who would just as soon have you shot as give you an order to shoot someone. So, by virtue of that, you must be an absolutely awful person and we don’t want you in our country.”
I don’t know. That doesn’t add up to me. I think this guy might, just might, have been stuck in a hell-hole and only just managed to get out alive. Minority? I think he fits in that grouping. Should we look out for him? Maybe, but if we’re not going to, we should come up with some bloody good reasons. Because if Hon. Winston looked at me and said “You’re a minority, and you must be unhappy about being in that car, but hey… It’s your dumb fault for going there”, I would have felt seriously ripped off. And I guarantee that anybody in any minority group would feel the same if the law didn’t stick up for them. And then maybe, just maybe, something would change, they wouldn’t be the minority anymore, and we’d be left hoping that they didn’t hold a grudge.
Article originally published in the Nexus (University of Waikato magazine), by me, May 16th, 2005. Format changed to fit E2 and minor errors corrected May 22nd, 2005.