In January 2015 I wrote in defence of Eleanor Catton. Ms Catton is the recipient of the Man Booker award fot her novel Luminaries inspired by 1860’s New Zealand. Sometime after the novel was written, Ms Catton began to have significant doubts about the direction in which New Zealand was headed. Her story had been out for a while. The defence, which was against Sean Plunkett’s derogatory comments about her being an “ungrateful hua”, was not provoked by what Mr Plunkett wrote, but by the implications – that criticism is somehow not okay, and is somehow criminal or improper.
This is not okay and should not be accepted by anyone. You do not tell a person that they cannot exercise their Section 19 right to freedom of speech, or if you do, don’t be surprised if the reaction is decisively negative.
In 2018 I find myself defending Golriz Ghahraman, for her support of Te Reo Maori. I am defending her for several reasons:
- Golriz Ghahraman has done nothing wrong. When Ms Ghahraman spoke to to the committee that she is a part of, she was trying to do her job. That job included advancing Green party policy, but also how she as a Member of Parliament has to respect the substantial public input
- The same reasons for defending Eleanor Catton come out in here as well – a misguided commentator thinking he somehow has the right to shut down someone
- And there is a strong case for Te Reo becoming compulsory in schools. One of the great disadvantages that New Zealand has when dealing with the range of nationalities and ethnic groups that have settled here is our aversion to learning other languages
Even if people don’t get beyond that, at the least we should be able to say “Hello, my name is _________”, count to say 100 and understand basic custom when speaking. Does that mean we should exercise it day in, day out? That will depend on the user and the circumstances of the day.
So, it is not a minor thing when I say that Sean Plunketts hugely divisive and inflammatory commentary does not do anyone any favours. Mr Plunkett needs to understand that apart from times are a changin’ so are societal attitudes. This not the early 1900’s that people are dealing with here. New Zealand has moved on from that. We are not a monocultural society. We are at our core a bicultural society with a healthy and beautiful range of Pasifika and other cultures. We are a nation with two languages plus sign language.
I am grateful for the work that Ms Ghahraman is doing in Parliament. Does that necessarily mean I agree with her on everything? Definitely not. As someone who is too conservative for the Greens we are certainly not going to see eye to eye on things such as defence and justice, and some aspects of economic management.
I am pleased Ms Ghahraman is in Parliament. To quote Winston Churchill:
You have enemies? Good. That means you stood up for something