Poll Dancer by Keith Ng

I can explain

Tze Ming called me up at 10:00. That's 10:00 *in the morning*! I rolled off my mattress to get the phone and instantly found my quarter-awake self struggling to defend a position I couldn't remember against some kind of argument around international treaties and laws that I didn't understand. In the violent barrage of words, ideas and Magna Carta citations that ensued, Tze Ming must have misheard me when I said "fundamental conceptual considerations" and thought I said "feelings" instead. Must be a Klingon thing.

It was just a practice run for two appearances that we'll have together this weekend. We're both going to be on the youth panel at the "Human Rights and the Treaty of Waitangi: Issues for Asian Communities" symposium on Sunday at Auckland University. We're also going to be on Chris Laidlaw's show on National Radio this weekend.

Anyway, diverging from my Hobbesian roots, my issue with the role of the Treaty is actually liberal in nature, and actually rather simple.

The role of the Treaty is that it is the document through which Maori chiefs gave the Crown the right to govern/have sovereignty over New Zealand, and thus allowed us, as subjects of the Crown, to settle in New Zealand. Therefore, the Treaty is the document that forms the basis of our rights as citizens.

Now, I'm as 16th century as the next guy, but there are a few things that I don't accept:

1) That monarchs have a divine right to rule.
2) That chiefs have a divine right to rule.
3) That our rights, as mere mortals, are derived from the aforementioned divine rights.

Please don't take this the wrong way, Madam Governor-General, but with all due respect, we are not your bitches. And, um, please don't hang me for sedition.

Nobody believes that our right to be in New Zealand is derived from Her Majesty, right? We live in a democracy, right? Government of the people, etc.? What we're saying there is that the government gets its right to rule from the people, not the other way around. And as much pompous fluff as we give to the Governor-General declaring her to be our liege, it's all just a bit of fun so everyone can dress up in tights and wigs every now and again, right?

So why then should we take seriously the idea that our right to be in New Zealand comes from the Maori chiefs who signed the Treaty?

After all, to accept that such an arrangement is still valid is to accept that rights come from rulers, and that rulers *own* those rights, that it is theirs to dish out, and that they then pass it on to the next set of rulers to dish out to their subjects. Moreover, to accept that our rights are derived from the Maori chiefs is to accept that our rights are derived from Her Majesty the Queen of New Zealand, who is currently holding those rights.

I conclude, therefore, that while it may be legally true - just like our lawful Head of State the Governor-General can legally have me tried for sedition - the idea of the Treaty of Waitangi as the source of our rights as citizens contradicts the reality of our political system (i.e. Not feudalism), and it is illiberal to boot.

Simply put: Power to the people!

[I've ballsed-up the timing here. I had a really interesting interview with Pita Sharples about the use of tikanga by the state sector. (Un)fortunately, it was much more interesting (he supports changing of the custom of women sitting in the back, among other more interesting, but less sound-bitable, things) and longer than I expected, so it has to wait until Monday. But come back for it - it's good, I promise. A most fascinating addition to the debate, and much more culturally focused as oppose to this straight political philosophy.]