Dan’s Online Diary 

# 25.7.05 by Dan

I had the opportunity to attend a Maori cultural group performance during my lunch break today and even though I'm a New Zealander and have seen many such performances before, I was struck once again by the raw aggression, violence and defiance in each of the various items in the performance.

Now it is no secret that Maori are over-represented in New Zealand crime statistics, but I'd never really considered the fact that these statistics may be driven by the very nature of the Maori culture.

The woman who was explaining the various items of the performance stated that all male Maori are dedicated at birth to the Maori god of warfare, and receive training in the use of the taiaha and patu. Now I know that this is quite probably not true for all male Maori, but there is certainly clear provision for this in their culture.

The performace was certainly intimidating, and worth of respect, but I would not consider it beautiful, nor something to be proud of if I were a Maori.

Why should we celebrate and glorify aggression and violence? Why should we intimidate our guests before we've even had a chance to meet them properly, as with the haka? Warfare is sometimes necessary, but why should it be the dominant aspect of a culture?

Is this cultural focus on violence and intimidation the reason why there is a higher proportion of Maori in our prisons than of other ethnicities?

I've always been cautious of accepting different behaviour and truths on the basis of the fact that it is 'cultural' and do should be respected and not questioned.

Just because something is 'cultural' doesn't mean it is right, or should even been accepted or tolerated by society, especially if it is anti-social and destructive.

I'm not intending to sound racist, and I don't mean to single out the Maori culture, as there are many other cultures that celebrate and hold to things which are not helpful.

I'm not suggesting either that these aspects of a culture should be forgotten or covered over (as the Japanese attempt to do with their actions in World War II) - they can be written down as history, and can be carried down through the generations - but in today's context, especially where violence is a growing problem in New Zealand society, I believe that these aspects should not be encouraged.