Sunday, January 23, 2011

ZenTiger Making a mountain out of a tapu

[Partly Satirical]

Taranaki Department of Conservation Boss, Phil Mohi has declared no food may be cooked in New Zealand, but bringing in a packed lunch from overseas is permissible:

"The act of cooking over an ancestor is tapu – it's something that you just don't do," he said. "There's a difference too between eating prepared food for sustenance and actually cooking

And went on to explain all of New Zealand is an ancestor, with Northland the mohawk haircut, Auckland Harbour the mouth and eye, Mount Taranaki a nipple, the Cook Straight it's private bits and he declined to talk further about other locations. "Although there is no brain, it hasn't got a brain" he added thoughtlessly.

"Graffiti is also right out, unless you call it a tattoo or "ta moko".

"Also, in line with cultural sensitivity we also demand no New Zealander eat meat on Friday's and give up bacon. This prohibition will last 12 months until New Zealand is governed only by all things Māori."



Also: Experienced Mountain Guide surprised about Tapu.

20 comment(s):

Muerk said...

This post makes me angry and ashamed.

Christ told us to treat people how we would wish to be treated and I know I would be hurt and upset if someone acted in a sacrilegious way in regard to something I believed was sacred and important.

What if it was a cathedral rather than a mountain? What if it was the Host?

Lucia Maria said...

Muerk,

It's not a cathedral or a Host, it's a mountain. We can't equate the two. Otherwise superstition is encouraged.

Lucia Maria said...

I tink the bigger problem is that Maori, who originally embraced Christianity, are now reverting back to paganism. Encouraging them them by pandering to their primitive superstitions, does them no good. Let those that want to believe that the mountain is an ancestor, but let's also have some freedom in belief as well.

ZenTiger said...

Hi Muerk. I considered that aspect too. I think a cathedral could be equated with a Maori building but calling a mountain an ancestor and then announcing how others are to behave on the mountain? Are you sure pregnant women will be allowed on beaches or that pakeha are allowed to own land once we learn the deeper cultural and religious requirements of pagan culture? Will you escort the corrections officer to the back of the room because she is a women and it's important to put her in her rightful place at a secular ceremony?

And can you please explain why Maori religion gets to own mountains and dictate what other people are to do to show respect and explain why my request that everyone refrain from eating meat on Friday is any different?

I would suggest that ownership becomes a helpful differentiator in this case. If you walk into a Catholic Catheredal then respect the norms of the place. Same goes for a marae. If Maori claim ownership of mount taranaki and we agree it is no longer property in common of all new zealanders then I will respect the tapus they place on the land and expect to ask permission to walk their land. But it isn't their land as far as I know - it is the peoples land and they need to respect that concept too

leftrightout said...

Right on, brother Zen.

There are things I will not do when in a church, such as telling the priest/minister he is wrong (unless it is over drinkies at the end, taking communion, genuflecting. Same if I were ever in a mosque (not that that's likely, unless its to tie shoelaces together) and same with a marae.

All the superstitious are, and should be, free to hold their superstitions, but they are not, and never should be, free to impose their superstitions on all aspects of our lives.

Its why there can be no place for a special status for the religious and why churches should pay tax, just like any other business undertaking.

ZenTiger said...

And what do you think about a State Official as the person that initiated this debate?

This apparently is public land, and so civil servants now are dictating the religious practices to be followed on public land.

I think that changes the meaning and nature of what we understand is "public".

This "protocol" is no different to telling Corrections Officer Josie Bullock to sit at the back of the room (to respect Māori protocol), whilst trying to do her job in a supposedly secular workplace.

leftrightout said...

And what do you think about a State Official as the person that initiated this debate?

The same as I feel about any public official who permits religion to intrude in to the public sphere and the performance of public duties.

In this, I believe, I have always been consistent.

I was the odd man out when I opposed a maori ceremony for a secular trust I was on the board of. In fact, as an Australian, I was not only told to shut up about maori stuff, but told I was personally responsible for 200 years of abo oppression.

I supported Josie Bullock and believe that a great harm was done, not only to her, but the the spirit of public service.

So, how do you feel when a public servant is sacked for refusing to perform civil ceremonies for poofs?

ZenTiger said...

So, how do you feel when a public servant is sacked for refusing to perform civil ceremonies for poofs?

This is quite a different question from the State using its resources to enforce particular religious practices on public land.

It's also a different issue again from having traditional Māori ceremonies as part of a welcoming or opening ceremony - that can be appropriate in certain circumstances, just as a prayer or a blessing might be.

I attended an event recently that included a Māori pōwhiri, and it added a positive element to the event I thought - it isn't necessarily my cup of tea, but it was good, and meant a lot to some of the people there and I respect that.

Equally, if a prayer had been made, it wouldn't have required much of guests to sit through it - there is no demand to participate in that sense for either.

So to address the issue you raise above, we need to consider that the State often demands things of it's workers that are not in keeping with a person's conscience or moral values.

There needs to be a freedom for people to exercise the ability to make a conscientious objection to anything the state requires of them, with a range of rights and protections.

The State could pass a law tomorrow requiring all pregnant and menstruating employees stay away from the beaches and any food producing gardens, and sit in the back row of every public ceremony (in keeping with a tapu of some tribes). Should they be fired for that? One could argue the law should never have been passed in the first place, and freedom to conscientiously object is a good safeguard to the State over-reaching itself.

That being said, there will be specific situations where it is not so clear cut as that, and claiming conscientious objection may be unreasonable, although I can't quite think of an example. Did you have a specific incident in mind, or is this generic?

Muerk said...

"And can you please explain why Maori religion gets to own mountains and dictate what other people are to do to show respect and explain why my request that everyone refrain from eating meat on Friday is any different?"

Because the Crown signed a treaty with Maori, they didn't sign a treaty with Catholics and because the mountain was unjustly confiscated from Maori in the first place.

Pakeha came here and overran this country and took it from Maori control. The British Crown made a treaty and then proceeded to renege on it. When Maori tried to fight for their rights it came to war and more Maori land was confiscated, including Mt Taranaki.

Can't we be just a little bit respectful of their belief system? I mean really, all they ask is that people don't cook food on the mountain in this instance. It seems a perfectly reasonable request given their religious and cultural system.

Would it kill us to be kind and generous about people's sacred places?

KG said...

"Would it kill us to be kind and generous about people's sacred places?"

Not at all, but where is the line to be drawn? Do we stop slaughtering cattle to avoid upsetting Hindus? Will we turn a blind eye when women are stoned to death?

The reality--like it or not--is that NZ society is one based broadly on Judeo-Christian values and that's worked pretty well in terms of building a civilized, productive country. To allow old grievances and superstitions to dictate to the majority of Kiwis how they should behave is absurd.
And your super-simplified, sanitised account of the friction between Maoris and the early settlers does you no credit.

Muerk said...

"Not at all, but where is the line to be drawn?"

Where the legal and moral obligations demand it is. Hindus don't have a treaty with the Crown remember.

And of course my comment was simplistic, this is a blog comment. By definition it's simplistic. If you want real historical explanation read King or Moon.

ZenTiger said...

Hi Muerk. Your point a couple of comments back is, I think, the best argument:

Would it kill us to be kind and generous about people's sacred places?

As KG said, it wouldn't, and in this particular case, many will be content to respect it.

But the point of my post was to tease out where the line should properly be drawn. It isn't too far a stretch of the imagination to say that there will become an expectation that tapu obligations extend across all public space in NZ.

You are arguing it does, because of our Treaty obligations.

I disagree completely with that argument. Nowhere does it say we have to follow Maori religion in the public sphere as a condition of the Treaty, and breaking the Treaty would not create a moral obligation to follow Maori religious precepts.

The Treaty was broken on both sides, and responsibility for our part has seen billions of dollars paid in reparations to Māori.

It doesn't extend to making binding agreements upon myself to things that will conflict with my freedom of religion.

It doesn't extend to promoting Maori religion as the official state sanctioned religion, especially over Christianity, which barely survives in the public sphere as it is.

What we also need to be clear about is that Maori don't have a right to make any of their religious requirements in a public space become law, and enforceable by law, which is where I can see this heading. They don't have a right to oblige us to follow their religious requirements.

Also, I don't like the implication that our religion requires respect only if a treaty is signed. You are using the Treaty to enforce Maori religion or suggest a moral obligation to follow it, and using a lack of Treaty to explain why reciprocal respect is not required.

So we do not need to require menstruating women to stay away from food areas, including fishing spots and gardens if they are in public places.

We should not require women to sit in the back seats when working for the government.

And in a public space we should not be prohibited from eating however we like, other than safety issues.

Equally, we don't tell Maori to say Grace when sitting in a park and about to eat a picnic lunch (would it kill them to say Grace, or are we too polite to even suggest it?)

Well, actually we can in the same way that Maori can ask and people can decide for themselves.

Religious freedom is that we can follow our religion and not have to follow another's.

That is the difference I am trying to impress upon you.

There is a difference in being told to actively follow their religious prescriptions rather than respecting their right to practise their religion the way they want in public spaces.

Where did you sit on the Te Papa restrictions and on the Josie Bullock issue? You have argued the Treaty obliges you to follow their beliefs. So I have to assume you are willing to submit to anything they ask. How do you decide which requirements you are morally obliged to follow and which ones you can ignore?

Muerk said...

Zen: No one is forced to not cook on Mt Taranaki, no pregnant or menstruating woman was forced to not go on the behind the scenes tour for museum professionals. But to have people tear stips off for merely stating a _request_ is just nasty, divisive and rude.

You write as though there are armed men ready to shoot hapless mountainering cooks for goodness sake. If you do cook food on Mt Taranki what happens? Are you arrested? No. There is NO prohibition. All there is is a request - please don't do this because it upsets us. You can ignore it and there is nothing the Iwi can do.

So why are you acting as though there are actual sanctions that demand you follow Maori culture?

ZenTiger said...

I'm not writing as if there are armed men ready to shoot.

I am not tearing strips off anyone. I am discussing limits.

Why must my discussion seen to be an attack?

Why can't it be taken as genuine questioning of what the State is moving toward in regards to observance of Maori protocols and religious precepts?

Why do I act as if there might be consequences or sanctions? Because there were for Josie Bullock. There most certainly were.

And so I monitor this trend with some interest and some curiosity.

The only person that tore strips off anyone was State employee Phil Mohi, speaking as an Area Manager for the Department of Conservation, and speaking on behalf of Iwi:

A group of Christian climbers who hauled a couch and barbecue to the top of Mt Taranaki for an "epic barbecue" have angered local Maori and Department of Conservation (DOC).

"The act of cooking over an ancestor is tapu -- it's something that you just don't do,"

"We discourage camping at the summit and try to make people aware that the very highest part is the most sacred of all -- and ask climbers to avoid standing there.


What also interests me that Maori ask, for cultural and religious reasons, not to stand at the highest point, the peak. Well, our culture glorifies in standing at the highest point of the mountain.

Hillary didn't climb Everest only to have Tensing go "hey mate, back off from the top bit", but could have come a cropper with a Maori sherpa heading up Mount Cook I suppose.

So here is a genuine conflict of culture, but I'd like to think discussing it doesn't make me nasty, divisive and rude.

Bloody revolutions are fairly rare, but change is constant and it's often little incidents that can serve as the defining moments in our history. And sometimes not even one incident, but the buildup of many, until something explodes.

So bringing it out onto the table for discussion before it reaches exploding point isn't being nasty or divisive.

Maybe my satire is rude, but I'm consistently rude in that regard across all issues I write on. But to some extent, British sark is a cultural thing. It does me well with my laid back part Fijian heritage.

PS: You haven't answered my question on where you sit on the Josie Bullock case and how you decide which Maori protocols you will follow or ignore. I am curious as to how you differentiate.

leftrightout said...

That being said, there will be specific situations where it is not so clear cut as that, and claiming conscientious objection may be unreasonable, although I can't quite think of an example. Did you have a specific incident in mind, or is this generic?

There are many examples, such has medical practioners claiming a consientious objection to family planning advice that includes contraception, to a xian couple denying double bed accommodation to gays, to this particular example.

Appeal court judges in a UK court on Wednesday, December 16, 2009, ruled that Lillian Ladle, a Nigerian-born British registrar who refused to conduct civil union ceremonies between gays because it was contrary to her Christian faith broke the law.

http://www.modernghana.com/news/255710/1/christian-registrar-sacked-for-refusing-to-conduct.html

I'd say, paraphrasing Jesus, she took Caesar's pound and so should render the service unto Caesar.

leftrightout said...

But to have people tear stips off for merely stating a _request_ is just nasty, divisive and rude.

this is where it can be so damned hard to discuss/debate/argue with those whose minds are solidified by religion. Their "deeply held beliefs", their 'strong faith", their clinging to myth in the face of all evidence should not, cannot, must not be discussed in anything other than deeply reverential tones lest it be nasty, divisive and rude.

Muerk said...

Read your post.

"Taranaki Department of Conservation Boss, Phil Mohi has declared no food may be cooked in New Zealand, but bringing in a packed lunch from overseas is permissible:"

"And went on to explain all of New Zealand is an ancestor, with Northland the mohawk haircut, Auckland Harbour the mouth and eye, Mount Taranaki a nipple, the Cook Straight it's private bits and he declined to talk further about other locations. "Although there is no brain, it hasn't got a brain" he added thoughtlessly."

"Also, in line with cultural sensitivity we also demand no New Zealander eat meat on Friday's and give up bacon. This prohibition will last 12 months until New Zealand is governed only by all things Māori."

As for Josie Bullock I can only say what I would have done. I would have sat in the back and not been upset about the protocol. It isn't something that would have upset me probably because I'm certain that I'm not lesser because I'm a woman and where I sit can't change that in my own mind. I'm not saying that is why Bullock was unhappy mind you, just how my thinking runs.

I do disagree that she was sacked. That was wrong. I don't think anyone should be forced to follow Maori protocol. I'm happy for them to request and I'm accepting if people refuse to follow those guidelines unless it's a private space, eg. their Marae.

Everyone has to be free to follow their conscience, and I think it's good that we all know about other people's cultural norms. Maori have a special relationship with the Crown given via Treaty obligations.

The thing is New Zealand runs on Pakeha cultural norms, and we see it as normal. It seems unfair to me that Pakeha came and just culturally took over. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy my culture but I see how Maori would feel given it was their country, they signed a treaty that said they would have governance and then that never happened.

Muerk said...

LRO - No. Common politeness is not being reverential. I think I have always been polite to you even though I utterly diasgree with you re: atheism.

ZenTiger said...

Muerk, I agreed my satire could be seen as rude, and aside from the manner in which I made my points, I think they still stand.

I'd like to tackle your comments on the Treaty over the next week since we are at the right time of year to talk about that sort of thing. My only worry is limited time to cover such a complex and contentious subject.

Muerk said...

It is very complex yes, I think it's a hard topic for a blog because of the complexity. Still it's also an important topic because it marks how our nation will go forward in the future.

I think that the only way it can be resolved is for us to follow the teaching of Christ, eg love your neighbor.

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