HH, his wife and Me/ Fucked off to Paris to have a sight-see/ Too much beauty in one foul sweep/ And the brilliant sun made me blind on the beach/ So I made it back to confusion row/ Where encased in four walls my mind could cope/ We live in hope
So, I think I've got this right.
Hone Harawira, finding himself on parliamentary business in Brussels with his wife in tow, thinks to himself "why not skip tomorrow's pointless meeting and pop off to Paris for a bit of sight-seeing?" Which he does.
Upon returning to New Zealand, he writes a column in his local rag boasting about how much he and his wife enjoyed their time there. Having outed himself, the national media cottons on to a potential misuse of taxpayers money and -- times being what they are and MPs expenses being the scandal du jour -- loose the hounds.
Hone's response is that he doesn't really care about such criticism, because he answers only to his constituents and only "boring" people would deny him his fun. All well and good... until the former director of the Waitangi Tribunal, Buddy Mikaere, sends him a short email asking who had paid for his wife to accompany him on the journey.
Whereupon Hone lets loose with both barrels, claiming Buddy is just parroting "white man bullshit", and that white people have been "raping our lands and ripping us off for centuries and all of a sudden you want me to play along with their puritanical bullshit."
Also all well and good -- colonisation is an undeniable fact, one that has created undeniable and ongoing problems for Maori. But here's my problem.
As Hone walked through the Louvre (which he described in his original newspaper column as "the museum made famous by Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code"), did he wonder how all those antiquities from Eqypt and the "Near East" happened to come to be there?
As he and his wife strolled down the glorious Champs Elysees, did he consider how much of it was built using the wealth derived from France's slave colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and elsewhere?
As he soaked up the ambience that is Paris in the autumn, did he think that he was in the capital of a nation that in 1961 massacred hundreds of protesters seeking an end to France's colonisation of Algeria, and that still retains colonies in New Caledonia and "French Polynesia"... right in Aotearoa/New Zealand's backyard?
In fact, did it occur to him even once that he had departed one European capital built on the benefits of colonisation (the "whited sepulcher" of Brussels, to quote Conrad) for another equally as stained by history?
But maybe colonisation really is only bad when it happens to you. Or when it happens today. Or when you're in a tight spot and need a convenient out.