This text is an essay included in “Back to the Māori Future” in Inequality: A New Zealand Crisis, Max Rashbrooke (ed.), Wellington, Bridget Williams Books, June 2013.
Better by Design: back to the Māori future?
At the creation
It is interesting to speculate on the vision that the Māori leadership of the nineteenth century had in mind as they signed the Treaty of Waitangi, and what they may have envisaged a co-created Aotearoa New Zealand – and their role in that nation-building exercise – would look like.
A genuine blending of the Māori worldview, with its dynamic, community-grounded customs and values held in a frame of reciprocal responsibility to each other and the natural world, and the equally dynamic Western model, with its technologies and capital market economy and systems of management, would have been a heady mix indeed.
We do enjoy, fortunately, a unique Aotearoa New Zealand approach to life, one that shapes our view of both each other and the external world. But the merger – to date at least – has been a largely one-sided affair, with the indigenous instinct being overwhelmed by the globally dominant Western frame. It has taken a long time for Māori to tack their way back into the contemporary field, and the relatively impressive progress of late is still tentative and fragile.
Tony Hsieh, CEO of the phenomenally successful Zappos, is betting that a successful company and a run-down Las Vegas downtown vitalize each other.