David Seymour Goes Full Coloniser
In a recent tweet, the ACT Party leader used this time of mourning to reinforce the white supremacist ideology of their wealthy donors.
Me mihi atu māua ki te whānau Taiatini, te whānau pani me ngā whānau whānui o te tāne nei. Tēnei te mihi aroha.
He said: "What's happened in Ōpōtiki over the past four days is despicable. The people of Ōpōtiki are being terrorised by the subhuman actions of weak individuals unable to solve their problems like civilised members of society."
To give some context, Seymour's tweet refers to the funeral gathering for a recently murdered gang leader, Steven Rota Taiatini. Taiatini was a beloved figure in his community, described as a good family man who worked "seriously hard to help make changes in the methamphetamine harm space".
Many people, including gang members, traveled to attend the multi-day funeral. The local iwi, community services, and the police collaborated to accommodate the event, and two schools decided to close for a couple of days.
The mayor, who attended the tangi with school and iwi leaders, reported that they were welcomed by the gang members and there was mutual respect. He criticised the media for "hyping up the rivalry and gang war" when it was not the reality on the ground. He reminded everyone that those wearing patches "are still members of our community and they are people".
And yet certain media outlets and politicians went on to act as if they were not.
Gangs are an especially popular target among these actors. This is because gangs in NZ are a direct result of colonial violence: a government inquiry found that 80-90% of the Mongrel Mob and Black Power gang members had been in state so-called care as children, where they faced severe abuse, discrimination and alienation. In other words the colonial state is the gang that started them all.
And people like Steven are striving to break the cycle of trauma in their community.
But people like Seymour don't want that. This is because gangs provide a useful scapegoat for societal issues and allows colonisers to perpetuate racist ideas about Maori.
Instead of supporting healing, colonising discourse seeks to blame the harms of colonisation on what they argue is an inherent deficiency of the colonised. This is then used as a justification for further colonial violence and control.
Seymour's tweet systematically devalues the victim, his family, and other mourners by depriving them of empathy and recognition as "people." Designating certain groups as less than human is a classic colonial tactic used throughout history to justify violence. When Seymour speaks of "the people" being "terrorised" by "subhuman actions," he creates a distinction between those who are deemed fully human and those who fall into a lesser, subhuman category. While modern day colonisers don't usually use words like subhuman anymore, Seymour is continuously seeking to normalise his undermining of human rights.
This is reinforced by his use of "terrorise", a term which is used by US propaganda to otherise people and justify war. The idea is to paint the group as inferior and therefore unworthy of rights. As decolonial thinkers have long described, the colonial worldview creates a superior human image, against which all others are deemed inferior. The Master is a wealthy, able-bodied, white, straight, male human - all other people, animals and forms of life are inferior to varying degrees. Seymour is dipping into a deeply ingrained idea which has been perpetuated for hundreds of years to justify global domination.
When he says these individuals are 'weak' and 'unable to solve their problems' - as well as blaming colonial violence on its victims, this paternalistic language implies that colonisers need to intervene or "fix" the colonised.
These individuals, he says, are not like "civilised members of society" - invoking the narrative of colonisation as mission to bring civilisation and enlightenment to indigenous people, who are portrayed as inferior "savages." This aligns with Seymour's belief that colonisation was good for Māori.
What's interesting is that we're never actually told who the enemy is. Gangs are the obvious one, but the the real unnamed enemy is Maori. By referring to a group that due to colonisation is over-represented by Māori, and using language associated with denigration of indigenous people, Seymour is able to demonise Māori without explicitly referencing them.
This rhetoric supports the ACT party policy of seeking to erase the right to Maori self determination by redefining Te Tiriti o Waitangi - after all, the implication is that these are uncivilised, inferior people who are in need of control and assimilation into colonial society. It also aligns with their calls to abolish the Human Rights Commission.
Seymour's tweet not only reflects a disturbing colonial worldview, but also highlights the ongoing otherisation and scapegoating of Maori communities. Ultimately, these narratives are employed by the wealthy class through their political puppets in order to increase policing, abolish our rights and maintain control over ALL of us.