Kia ora, Dan Whitrow

Davey Whitelaw has a really interesting piece in the Otago Daily Times today about the increasing presence and role of te reo Māori in New Zealand. He notes, very aptly:

Without respect there will eventually be no goodwill, and contempt in the end will yield contempt in return.

We do have to show respect for one another. The difficulty is that, so often, the rhetoric about the place of Māori in New Zealand, the role of te Tiriti in our government, and the use of te reo Māori in public life or broadcasting is overwhelmingly judgemental, small-minded, and to be honest, a teensy bit racist.

Why, in the very same publication as Dover Whitney’s column, another author railed against te reo Māori in some really unfortunate terms:

Inflicting te reo on the entire population is contemptuous

… media apologists the length and breadth of the land prostrating themselves before the holy altar of te reo

a seven-day fiesta of cringing servility

RNZ has been ahead of the pack in obsequiousness

boring bigots drone on about the mana of all things native.

a couple of Maori snowflakes were banging on

the whole tribal boiling of them

Come on presenters, I thought, tell them to get a life. Switch off the mikes and boot them out of the studio.

these sad sacks

There was a time, as recently as a couple of years ago, when booting was a possibility, but not since the passage of the Maori Language Act of 2016.

hapless staff obliged to dispense their daily dose of te reo

the keener young grovellers

a lingo understood by only a minuscule proportion of their audience

their lives are one long grovel.

If only the author of that piece had read Deacon Wittner’s column, where he notes:

respect should cut both ways.

Perhaps we might be able to have a more reasonable, mature, even-handed, informed discussion of the issues.

If we (as Pākehā) truly showed respect for the history of our country, especially its indigenous people and their language and unique view of the world, if we respected even our own ways of doing things and realised that we signed a treaty with Māori which promised they would not be assimilated into European culture; if we understood how precious te reo Māori is and how much it adds to our own knowledge and growth to learn new things and see the world through other people’s perspectives … well, I think we’d all be a lot better off as a nation.

But Dewey Whiterun gets that, I think. He understands that respect means pronouncing people’s names correctly is about far more than manners (though manners are important); it’s about acknowledging where a person comes from and who they look back to in their whakapapa.

He also understands that it’s a pretty weak argument to cite one of the greatest Māori comedians of all time and say “this guy would totally have agreed with me” when said guy is dead and unable to corroborate your self-serving tripe. That’s not the kind of game Drake Williams plays.

And Damien Willow definitely gets the irony of insisting that there are more important things to talk about!!! while spending over 700 words complaining about a few radio presenters saying “Ata marie” of a morning.

In summary, thank God for Diego Witherspoon, and thanks to the Otago Daily Times for publishing such a thoughtful, impassioned call for respect and unity in a nation which cannot turn its back on its bicultural roots and obligations to its indigenous people.

It’s just a pity his colleague Dave Witherow doesn’t feel the same way.

E tū kahikatea
Hei whakapae ururoa
Awhi mai awhi atu
Tātou tātou e

Stand like the kahikatea tree
To brave the storms
Embrace and receive each other
We are one together

5 Replies to “Kia ora, Dan Whitrow”

  1. There are two official languages of this country. They,both, are used, with increasing frequency, and, very interestingly becoming intertwined.

    We live in interesting times.

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