Know Thy Enemy: Protest, Poverty and the TPPA

So the TPPA Protest came and went, and the energy and build up behind it was extraordinary. I challenge anyone to name a culture that has the protest power equivalent to that of the Māori. We are quick to mobilise, passionate to fight and we do protest with pizzazz, bringing raw and unfiltered collective energy to the moment. It is very powerful.

But I’ve come to consider this ‘collective energy’ a bit more deeply and question why we as a people are so good and reacting to causes and not so good at being proactive against causes. Why, for example, do we not fight with the same ferocity against child poverty, or against our alarming rates of a developing underclass of uneducated Māori, or the fact that P is destroying and devastating our communities? It is these issues, that I would argue are of our most urgent need for attention, eroding away the heart and soul of our culture. It is these issues that immediately threaten our existence and our tino rangatiratanga.  Surely, if we put that raw, unfiltered passion and collective energy into fighting these causes we would move mountains.

But I’ve come to a realisation. The thing with a good protest is that is usually very clear about who is the enemy. In this case, John Key, the National Government and the TPPA have been identified as the enemy. When you know who exactly the enemy is, you can rouse a few 10,000’s people to create a mass of energy targeted directly at it.

But the problem with battling issues like poverty, education, alcohol and drug abuse, is that the enemy is harder to pin down. Who exactly is the enemy? Violent, good for nothing parents, useless schools, no jobs, colonisation, the government, lack of funding, dead beat communities etc. The enemy has no real shape or form, it is elusive.

Additionally, these types of issues are a lot less glamorous to deal with. They require the day to day grind of lone soldiers, on the ground who fight with a relentless, unappreciated energy. Nowhere near as exciting as an electrified charged protest march.

While I can’t change the nature of the fight that poverty, P and education require, I do challenge people to think about how powerful our collective energy is and to continue to mobilise it past the protest. To do this we must know ourselves.

For indigenous researchers, we have a very important role in this fight too. Indigenous research helps to bring shape to shapeless enemies, it helps to identify what should be targeted and how it should be targeted. We create the language that helps to identity problems. We connect things, that may on the face of things seem unconnected. We make that which is not seen, seen. Through us, we help our communities to know thy enemy.

I’ll leave you here with these thoughts to ponder and a quote from the book, The Art of War, by the famous Chinese general and military strategist who lived around 500BC, Sun Tzu says;

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.
If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.
If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Photo Credit: Nga mihi kia Cherilee Fuller mo enei whakāhua. You can see more of her amazing work on her website Taiao Photography and some awesome TPPA shots on her Facebook page.


  1. Barbara T. Taniora

    You do the [PROTEST] and lead the march as soon as possible Kiri. Waitangi has a kaupapa where you can talk and push your issues, see you 2017 at WAITANGI, Te Tii Marae. Barbara T. Taniora.

    Liked by 1 person

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