March against the TPPA: a talk outside parliament

Photo: Leanne Tamaki

Abridged transcription of a talk given by Pala on parliament grounds during a Wellington TPPA protest march on November 14, 2015.

Kia ora koutou kia orana, ni sa bula vinaka, Talofa lava, Fakalofalahi atu, Taloha ni, Kam na mauri, Halo olgeta, and warm Pacific Greetings everyone.

It’s a real honour and privilege to be with you all today because we are here to protest against one of the greatest corporate incursions against the fundamental democratic rights on which our society is based. Thanks to mainstream education, we tend to think that capitalism and democracy naturally go together. They don’t. History shows that democratic culture has always been threatened by corporate power. Democracy in this sense is actually a fragile flame and the corporate state has always threatened to extinguish the flame of democratic culture, and it’s only taken the blood, and the struggle and the sweat of so many men and women starting with the indigenous peoples. All our countries around the world to open up and to keep alive that democratic flame. One of the things that we do here today – it is largely symbolic – but it is an action that’s premised on the idea that democratic flame has to be fought for, if not, it will be extinguished.

If history is any guide, we get taught that we are on the path of progress, and that progress is infinite, and will go on forever. History teaches us something very, very different. It teaches us that arrogance and hubris always brings down any civilisation or culture that does not try to rectify the injustices that it is based on. The TPPA is only at the forefront of that thin, but very sharp wedge of deepening inequalities in our societies.

So, thank you very much for turning up – but I’d also like to tautoko what the other speakers have already said, which is that this is only part of a much bigger struggle, that we will have to continue to deepen, to escalate and think about strategically. if we are successful in stopping the TPPA, corporate power is still in place to control most of our democratic processes. That struggle has to be fought in all the institutions that make incremental democratic reform possible.

One of the important things that has happened, and we’ve had important nodal points in the first world war ad second world war – we’ve had all our major, liberal institutions taken over and slowly co-opted by corporate power. That has to be combated and that has to be taken seriously and we cannot lose sight of that.

On that note, I’d like to talk about one of the initiatives that I’m involved in, and then I’d like to end with a point about how we can move this struggle onwards. I’m part of a group that’s come out of the Show Us Ya Text campaign, it’s called Real Choice. It’s running an online voting platform to give us a public referendum. This government will put millions of dollars into a New Zealand flag, and it will not put anything towards giving the public real choice as to whether or not we will address child poverty, climate change, structural unemployment – and it will also not put a referendum in place to determine whether or not this agreement gets passed.

This is a chance for us as a New Zealand public to express how unpopular this TPP agreement is, and our belief in democratic culture.

A point I’d really like to end on is this idea that democracy is a living thing and it’s a fragile thing. It’s a flame that can be easily extinguished. it got extinguished in Nazi Germany, it got extinguished in the U.S. at different times including under McCarthyism and the purging of intellectuals and radicals throughout all departments and sectors. Again, we are in the process of yet another serious assault on democratic culture. If we do not fight and if we do not put at the forefront those people who are most harmed – here in Aotearoa that’s out tangata whenua brothers and sisters. Climate change, indigenous rights, the rights of kids to have food in their bellies, to be able to go to school – the rights of our old people to have a decent life after they’ve put their blood, sweat and tears into their workplaces – all these things are part of the struggle here today.

So thanks again for showing up. Thanks very much all you young people for showing up – you people are the future; thanks so much for all the older people showing up, you people are the repositories of wisdom. And I’m just honoured to be part of this event here today, kia ora.

Pala Molisa