NZ anthem spiritual mumbo-jumbo

DAVE ARMSTRONG
Last updated 07:56 10/09/2012

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Dave Armstrong

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OPINION: HA, what a laugh! Maori singing songs to rivers and claiming they have a special right to water and wind. Let's charge them every time there is a flood.

How about those Muslim women? Won't let men see them out of veil. Take them to the Human Rights Commission!

As a non-believer, I don't have a lot of time for religion, be it Christianity, Islam or Maori "spiritual" beliefs. So, if the Waitangi Tribunal, in its latest findings, talks about Maori believing that rivers have a mauri, or life-force, and taniwha lurking in the depths, shouldn't I be loudly ridiculing such mumbo-jumbo?

Perhaps, but the thing is, I'm not Maori. And while I don't personally hold spiritual beliefs about rivers, many Maori do. And the tribunal must take those beliefs into account. The tribunal isn't saying that there are taniwha in the Waikato.

That is clearly not a fact. It is saying that many Maori, for hundreds of years, have believed such things. That is a fact, and I can't see why Maori spiritual beliefs shouldn't be taken into account when deciding issues such as selling off state assets.

If our Government suddenly decided to erect a five-star hotel on the site of the Wellington Cenotaph (and currently anything that's not nailed to the floor seems to be a possible candidate for sale), I would hope somebody might point out that such an act may offend, as the Cenotaph holds spiritual significance for many New Zealanders.

But it seems many Kiwis can only mock Maori spiritual beliefs, not Pakeha ones. "Who would have believed it? Singing a song can make a river yours," mocked Rodney Hide in a recent newspaper column.

Sorry, Mr Hide, but if that song has been sung for hundreds of years by people living on the banks of that river, then it probably does strengthen their claim to ownership when private investors want to make big bucks out of it.

In the Wellington region, it's not just Maori getting it in the neck for their spiritual beliefs. An exhibit at Hutt's excellent Dowse Art Museum is causing outrage. It features Muslim women out of veil, and can be viewed only by women and children. A number of people, mainly Pakeha men, are complaining that this exhibit discriminates against males.

If these critics had ever filmed anyone for a documentary or museum exhibit, they would know that you must get their permission before filming them.

If that person doesn't want the end product to be viewed by men, he or she has every legal right to stipulate that. The dilemma for the Dowse, a public gallery, is it can screen it and discriminate against men, or not screen it at all. Given it forms such a tiny part of the exhibition, for me it's a no-brainer.

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Those protesting about the Dowse exhibit don't seem to worry about similar discrimination closer to home. Could I go into a Catholic church and ask for a female priest to hear my confession? Sorry.

And have they forgotten it was only last year it was decided that the sons and daughters of future monarchs should be treated equally when it comes to who gets to sit on the throne - and that marrying a Roman Catholic should not rule princes or princesses out of the top job.

So men, by all means protest against the Waitangi Tribunal and the Dowse. And when you're next at the Cake Tin before the rugby and singing God Defend New Zealand proudly, remember to point out to the bloke next to you that the anthem, like taniwha and women-only screenings, is a load of spiritual mumbo-jumbo.

*Note: Comments have now been closed on this story

- The Dominion Post

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