Lost in translation
Ten years ago I badgered Mike King, one of my Maori mates, into tagging along with me to the treaty grounds for Waitangi Day.
Mike, as you’ll know from TV or from his live shows as a standup comedian, is a man of strong views, and sometimes strong and uncouth words too.
He had it in mind that Waitangi would be unappealing because judging from media reports over the years there would be protests galore and ugly confrontations with the cops.
So why go and get caught up in that?
I’d told him that even in the darker days there was another side, one that most of us have been familiar with in New Zealand – Maori and non-Maori enjoying one another’s company and the picnic atmosphere.
He discovered that for himself and now says it was a turning point in his life because he was able to see Kiwi society in a different and more positive light.
He could see more clearly the mischiefmaking of the mainstream media when it repeatedly presented Maori activists as a negative, evil force when, in fact, many of them were simply engaged in a gutsy battle for justice and a fair go.
He could see the courage, good humour and openness of people like Tame Iti and Hone and Hilda Harawira.
And he heard from TV One’s Mark Sainsbury the lame justification for the media’s negativity: “Good news doesn’t sell.”
Fortunately there have been some efforts since then by the media to understand Waitangi and the scale of Maori grievances.
They’ve tried to use the expertise of Maori journos, and with Maori now able to flex some muscle in Wellington by way of the Maori Party, there’s not the same need for protesters to make a song and dance.
Meanwhile Mike is doing his bit to combat decades of media and schoolroom misinformation.
He’s presenting a 10part series called Lost In Translation on the Maori channel on Sunday nights. It zeroes in on the treaty signing in 1840.