When it comes to prejudice there is no helping some people

The Whanganui River has carried the "h" for years.
Murray Wilson/ Fairfax NZ

The Whanganui River has carried the "h" for years.

OPINION: You can't do much about prejudice. Confronting people with the flaw in their entrenched and unreasonable view is seldom pleasant for the recipient, no matter how satisfying it may be for the one blowing holes in the argument. And we all have these biases, no matter how lacking in substance they might be.

I was in a job interview a couple of months ago. It was my first in 18 years. The assertion was made by the interviewer that most former ministers are hopeless managers.

As you'd expect I challenged that and asked them to name all the failures and flops if they were so obviously useless. They couldn't. The only managers of large organisations that we could name were actually successful.

This ran along hand in hand with other assertions that ex-politicians are hard to manage because they think they know it all and there were a number of other similar strongly held views which I pulled to bits over the hour or so interview. I doubt very much I changed the interviewer's mind on anything in spite of the fact they could not come up with any examples truly believed to be so numerous that it is blindingly obvious to even the most casual observer.

As you may have predicted, I didn't get the job. It was a sobering experience.

I read with interest and revulsion a letter to the editor from Terry O'Connor printed in Whanganui's Chronicle newspaper last week that bemoaned a number of recent events that  the scribe believes were examples of the government pandering to Māori.

The 'h' in Whanganui, in spite of the fact that the river has carried the 'h' forever and that it remains largely silent doesn't mean we ignore the spelling as we don't ignore the 'h' in so many English words.

He complained that recent legislation provides for inclusion of Māori on some territorial local authority consenting committees which codifies the common law as decided by the court to reflect the partnership between the Crown and tangata whenua.

He had a smack at the legal personality given to the Whanganui River to ensure that there is a binding fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the river and so prevent activities rthat could denigrate the waterway as has been done to the environment all through our country. Legal personalities are a construct of many entities that bear no resemblance to people such as companies, incorporated societies and trusts, but our letter writer takes no issue with these.

He took issue with the National government having a confidence and supply arrangement with the Māori Party but has no issue with concurrent similar agreements with United Future or the Act Party.

In his words "…now we find they are giving us a Māori as their candidate for our Whanganui Electorate..." we get to the nub of the issue.

It is about race. It is born of ignorance and prejudice and it is butt-ugly.

These views are not uncommon sadly.

My wife and kids have Samoan ancestry so we know all about the thoughtless comments, but when those afflicted with such ignorance write them down and have them published, that is not thoughtlessness, it is premeditated, deliberate and adds nothing to our nationhood, community or the well-being of people.


 - Stuff

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