Probably no Waitangi Day has ever had better weather for the occasion than this year, and yet despite those long sunshine hours and the genuinely beautiful surroundings of the place, the events at the treaty site as reported by the national media seemed seriously lacking in conviction or .freshness.
Every year there is the same rather silly combination of big city media teams justifying their budgets with celebrity interviews and overcooked accounts, trying to make significance from rather muddled ceremonies, lengthy speeches and ego tripping protestors and minority politicans.
And the 2008 “televersion” appeared not so much like a nation’s leaders observing an historic occasion, as yet another “reality television” show where a few wannabes act out ever more desperate and corny scripts on the themes of survival tests and group rejection and betrayal.
Helen Clark , I think got it right by keeping her visit to the treaty grounds to a minimum , focussing on meeting the people, and then moving on to other places and other people.
Titewhai Harawira, always in danger of being a parody of herself, repeated the walk on acts she has made in the past with other National Party leaders, and her leading of a haka party by motor car seemed straight out of a television comedy hour.
Whereas John Key fell into a rather familiar trap for the Pakeha at Maori ceremonial events. He worried too much about looking like he was doing something and was far too grateful of the attention of those willing to greet him. That can be the only explanation for his willingness to be snapped being so friendly to Tame Iti.
Does the leader of the nation’s Opposition really want to publicly suck up to a man out on bail for violence and firearms charges, which include a plan to assassinate him, personally.
These charges are yet to be settled in a court room, but John Key has given a very public impression that he has dispensed with the notion of a trial to decide anybody’s guilt or innocence.
That was not a good look, and apparently members of the Iti family were not too impressed when he said of one of the children, “Even he could one day be successful.”
I think the real dramas on where the Maori leadership in this country is taking us were not so visible on television reports, although some of the papers hinted at the undercurrent of gang participation at Waitangi.
There was a strong presence of at least two gangs which are known to be recruiting in the north, and a large contingent of gang members lead the march of Tuhoe protestors on the first leg up to the bridge.
Maori politicians in this election year are increasingly being pressured into taking very clear positions of this issue.