Yellow Peril by Tze Ming Mok

The Treaty of Waitangi's relevance to Alien Species: Part 1

If Keith Ng and I were a Star Trek spin-off, we'd be a Tuvok and Worf odd-couple sitcom.* Worf: "We are surrounded by enemies! Let us attack! Roooarrr!" Tuvok: "That would be highly illogical." Worf: "Pah! I will attack YOU Vulcan quisling!" Tuvok: "That would be even more illogi..."WHAM!

No prizes for guessing which Lieutenant-Commander is which.

But people are full of surprises. For example, I was recently talking to Keith about how it's great that Asians can afford to be rational, unemotional and geeky when discussing the Treaty of Waitangi because of our relative lack of distracting historical baggage, therefore allowing us to get far more productive political theory done. Imagine my mirrored shock when Keith started talking to me about how the Treaty of Waitangi made him 'feel'.

It didn't make him feel good.

In my opinion, highly illogical. Perhaps a Vulcan mind-meld had gone awry.

If you want to know what we were talking about, you can see more of Bizarro-Keith vs Bizarro-Tze Ming live at the Human Rights, Treaty of Waitangi and Asian Communities Symposium this Sunday at Auckland University. Keith and I are going to be on the Asian Yoof Panel, along with Karishma Kripalani (one of the organisers of this year's Human Rights Film Festival). I'll report on proceedings in 'The Treaty of Waitangi's relevance to Alien Species: Part 2', but the whole Symposium is free registration, so come along. We three Kids' Panelists are on at about 1:30, but may simultaneously be on the Sunday afternoon Lynn Freeman/Chris Laidlaw panel discussion on National Radio, due to the magic of pre-recording. The fact that I know who Lynn Freeman is, is probably proof that I shouldn't be on a Kids' Panel.

I pointed out to Manying Ip that I'm not really 'youth', and that if she was desperate to put me on a panel, it should be a Southeast Asian panel.

"Tze Ming," she said rather wearily, "there will be NO Southeast Asian panel."


But there will be an awesome South Asian panel featuring some of Auckland's finest postcolonial ethnicity-geeks and a Korean panel as well as the usual Chinese panel with the usual Chinese suspects.

And of course, the 'Young Asians' panel - which really should be called the 'Asians with too many advanced degrees in Political Philosophy and Identity Politics but not enough in Law" panel. There is a great danger that myself, Keith and Karishma will geek out the whole auditorium just when everyone's expecting us to be all cool and young and shit. I will be forced to admit that I'm three years past the Ministry of Youth Development definition of 'Youth'; Keith will be forced to admit that he's actually 37; Karishma will have to confess that although she's an immigrant, she's never lived in Asia.

The 'Young Asians' panel is meant to be discussing the "Relevance of the Treaty - Now & in the Future" so I thought I'd ask some real youth what they thought, given that it's rather dubious to consider either myself, Keith or Karishma as your 'typical' Asian youth... although I'm not sure if the reprobate friends of mine who answered my weekend Treaty text-message survey are a good representation either.** Would it be fair to propose that the more Young Asian Professionals (YAPs) in this list of respondents, the more accurate it is as a reflection of Young Asian opinion?

Treaty of Waitangi: relevant to you? Why/why not?

NZ-born tagger - uh-oh - and ...IT professional! Woohoo, YAP-hit!:
"yes becuase it ripped off the Maori and that's not cool. Getting ripped off ain't cool by any culture's standards."

1.5 gen/newish migrants - one text answered for three. One artist - uh-oh... one landscape architect... YAP-hit! 3rd, engineer-turned-businessman... so close on a primary-YAP capture, yet so far!**:
"2 'no's' because Asians didn't sign it. I say dunno because I am not aware how it is relevant."

1.5 gen - artist. Oh dear:
"if a hori cant walk free in his own land thn wat chance does da othr colourd folk hv in dis place?"

1.5 gen - architect - YAP!:
"very relavnt because im a NZer. Not relavent at all because we need to get over ourselves."

NZ-born film-maker... losing YAP points fast:
"Yes.. I'm a new zealander and the treaty is relevant to all new zealand! Not trying to be pc.. Just basic important knowledge!.."

1.5 gen student/community worker... hmm, borderline YAP possibilities still?:
"relevant,bcos it is important 2understand d history of d place we live in & we can learn many things from observin how the maori ppl is treated as minority by d policy-makers & make inferences abt how we as minorities may b treated as human beings, citizens & potential leaders."

1.5 gen IT professional/journalist... so half a YAP?:
"relevant, how a country treats its indigenous (uggh, hate that word) is a reflection of how open they are 2 other cultures"

NZ-born film-maker/film-production... that's not the kind of 'professional' we're looking for... losing more YAP points:
"Relevant due 2 unique position I have in maori broadcasting and my exposure 2 the culture"

1.5 gen actor... okay, this survey is now officially screwed:
"Relevant cause i am nzer. Nt relevant cause we r nt educatd bout it properly in skols...i mean wot does da treaty really signify 4us 2day? wot is da truth &does it create a beta society r my questns. Bt lacknin in knowledge,i cnt really say."

1.5 gen - another artist. Even more screwed:
"Yes, definitely, I live in this country, how could it not be relevant - not to sound defensive at all. And as a relative newcomer who perhaps isn't directly involvd in tht history, ie by ancestry etc, it informs me of this history which is very much a part of nz now."

1.5 gen rapper and shoe-saleman. Effectively, the YAP-nemesis:
"It makes me happy to see Maori people happy, that says it all."

Despite or perhaps because of my remarkably poor sampling method, I'm not sensing too much discomfort out there, nor projection of experiences of general societal marginalisation onto the terms or principles of the Treaty itself. There's both curiosity and boredom. So... what's up with Tuvok? What do Asians who feel marginalised by the Maori-Pakeha Treaty discourse, or insecure about the guarantees the Treaty presents for their national belonging, actually need in order to 'feel' better? Better information? A written constitution? Nullification of the Treaty?

Or do they just need a hug?

Maybe what they really, really need, is a Symposium.

*Possible names for the Tuvok & Worf show: "Please Do Not Feed the Aliens" or "YOU will be Assimilated" (this second option could be a game-show).

**The group surveyed is ethnically broader than the build-you-a-Chinatown survey, but doesn't include Asian people also of Maori descent, or people directly involved in the Symposium. A big fat zero-hit on primary YAPs (Doctor-Engineer-Accountant), and not even the full spectrum of secondary YAPs covered (IT-Architect-Lawyer). Me and my friends are such disappointments to our parents...