Socialist Signalling

I’m currently studying post-graduate governance, and while most of the programme so far has been as casually leftist as I expected (although I’m genuinely enjoying the course about why we should stop growing the pie in favour of increased rent-seeking, and surrender our collective will to the UN, because trees are nice), I am particularly shocked by one of the courses that I am taking. I had made the terrible assumption that a course regarding the law, and its relation to policy would have been an interesting study of the development of bureaucracy, legalism, and so on. Instead, the entire course has sought to indoctrinate the students into believing that the law is an exercise in ideology (a non-contentious position) and that it should constantly be updated, constitutionally and otherwise, to reflect new ideologies, because that would be the progressive thing to do.

Half the battle is with the man himself. His main employment is in the state government where he works to prosecute corporations. That is, of course, basically a big red flag that the man is not going to be reasonable. Each seminar consists of three hours of him frantically signalling that he is a progressive: a republican, in favour of constitutional amendment to put down terra nullius once and for all, against the former Queensland LNP government and the current Federal government &c. And what’s worse is that every domestic student other than myself signals as hard as they can back to him that they are also progressives who think the good things. If there were only international students and myself, the whole ordeal would be markedly more manageable.

‘Hey, are you a progressive?’ ‘Yes!’ ‘I AM ALSO A PROGRESSIVE!’

But most triggering of all was related to NZ’s Treaty of Waitangi. In response to my suggestion that the reason Maori tribes were given a treaty when Aborigines were not was due to their recognisable system of government, he claimed that government came later, and asserted (if I recall correctly) that the Treaty came out of a series of wars, in which Maoris fought for their sovereignty, and were therefore equivalent to Aboriginal Australians who fought by didn’t get a treaty (because the white man is an oppressor, you see). Unwilling to challenge him without fact checking first, I let it slide.

But now I have fact checked. The Treaty of Waitangi was signed in February 1840, after Great Britain was asked to intercede on behalf of white settlers and a number of Maori chiefs, who had been exhausted during the Musket Wars (1807-1845) and desired a lasting peace. Negotiations were difficult, not least because of the language barrier which would cause problems later on, especially over the concept of ‘sovereignty’. Maori were not unsophisticated, Stone Age people. They had a clear system that was recognisable to Europeans, including earth hill forts called pa. They adapted European technology into their martial culture, and were briefly considered to be equal in intelligence to Europeans, although later testing has shown that they have a lower IQ, in the area of 91 (see Lynn, 2008, The Global Bell Curve, ch. 11, especially p. 219-21). By way of comparison, Lynn also canvasses tests performed by Aborigines, and shows that the mean result for that group is 62 (ibid, p. 45-50).

Following the acceptance of the treaty by as many as 540 chiefs, a series of wars broke out (1845 to 1872). Known as the New Zealand Wars (originally the Maori Wars), the Maori used guerilla tactics and rapid redeployment from hill forts to fight back against the acquisition of land. I cannot comment on the application of the Treaty of Waitangi, but considering the chronology alone, no one could argue without some serious ideological block that the treaty was established as a result of conflict, but rather, two parties, one superior, the other inferior, negotiating a settlement as best they can.

In short, the story that the Maori defended their land and so could enforce a treaty is a nonsense of modern rationalisation used to justify the reality that Australia was terra nullius, that is, land without an owner, while NZ was not (although the South Island was declare so in May 1840 in response to the threat of a French colony). Even if the Aborigines fought a series of skirmishes against the colonists, it does not suggest a form of recognisable sovereignty, and therefore, with no authority with which to negotiate, and no ability of those who subsisted here prior to Great Britain to ‘establish those relations of intercourse with other states which are recognised by the rules of international law’ (Davis, 1900, The Elements of International Law, p. 66), there is no justifiable comparison to be drawn between Maori and Aborigines.

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