Hone's ghetto language belies his mainstream taming

Last updated 06:43 09/09/2012

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There is no point having freedom of speech, if that freedom is impinged by others' offence, writes MICHAEL LAWS.

Cue the media this week as they struggled to report Mana leader Hone Harawira's excoriating criticism of National's Maori MPs over the 'water rights' issue. Prime Minister John Key has decreed that none will be attending the Maori king's hui at Turangawaewae.

In fact, the media struggled so much that they initially couldn't telecast, broadcast or publish the N-word. I, on the other hand, am not so squeamish. The word is nigger. N-i-g-g-e-r.

And I remain amazed and bemused that so many people in this country can get so offended by a word that has absolutely no historical nor cultural relevance to our country. Especially when almost every second set of headphones in south Auckland, has the word as its default chorus for almost every modern rap song.

Right after mofo ... not abbreviated.

More importantly, the term 'house nigger' has a pretty honourable tradition in the US civil rights movement. It was coined as a pejorative abuse of those Afro-Americans who were too close to 'the man'.

Of course, it's pure ghetto. And it's no surprise that Harawira has appropriated the struggle of another people in another land to advance his especial causes here. Give the man some credit: he knows his audience. And that audience takes its inspiration not from the Maori or Polynesian culture but from the gangsta mentality of LA, Detroit and any number of broken US inner cities.

I will not condemn Harawira's language this morning. If we value the great Western liberal tradition of free speech then we must hear the dissonant and the dissident alike. As we may, equally freely, dismiss and disparage.

In fact, it would be difficult to find a better example of a house nigger than Harawira himself. He rode into Parliament upon the coat tails of the Maori Party - most especially Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia - to secure his current status, salary and side benefits.

All courtesy of the New Zealand taxpayer. And he has ridden the New Zealand taxpayer, whether bunking off from parliamentary delegations in Europe or flying his whanau around the country to having a set of salary and conditions well in excess of $200,000 per annum.

And he does nothing for it. And he never will. He just sits on the porch and barks occasionally. He will never be in any MMP coalition government basically because he piddles everywhere and on everything.

But New Zealand didn't evolve its relatively benign race relations by excluding the wannabe Maori revolutionaries and firebrands from its midst. No, we're much too clever for that. We give them a government job: put them on the public-sector payroll.

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So it is that we convert. In past times, the Ripeka Evanses, Donna Awateres, Tariana Turias and Ken Mairs were considered subversive radicals. We made them mainstream. So too the Harawira clan. And it's worked. Given the chance to be constructive, Maori radicals tend to be.

Even Hone. He's a kept man: we keep him. He's in the big House now. What does that make you, bro?

- Sunday Star Times

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