Maori are behind bars because of Colonialism

Above is a video someone sent to me. The video is meant to be uplifting in a vaguely left wing “we are all winners, its just that my intelligence is different to yours” kind of way. Play it to the left wing luvvies and they will think that the message is great. However the video makes a very important point and that is, that across the world, our ancestors developed in different circumstances and therefore preferentially developed different capabilities. This is the answer to people who assume that the message of Charles Murray or Stefan Molyneux is racist. The video is not racist, it is simply saying that my ancestors developed in a situation where a different skill set was more valuable than the skill set important to your ancestors.

Let’s make that more topical – Maori are not less intelligent, it’s just that they developed with a different “intelligence” than Anglo Saxons. What we normally think of as intelligence is a measure of cognitive ability. That this is hereditary in character and varies between people of different origins was demonstrated by Charles Murray from statistical analysis. A new book, Blueprint by Robert Plomin, a professor of behavioural genetics, establishes its genetic basis.

What Murray, in his book The Bell Curve, showed was that, whatever intelligence or skill we look at, there will be a distribution across the population.  Some people will exhibit high intelligence or skill level, most people will be around the population mean and some will be poor performers.  So let’s be race aware (a non-pejorative racist) and say that race A excels at X and race B excels at Y.  Nevertheless, there will be people of race A who are better than the average of B at skill Y and vice versa.  For example, some Kenyans that are more intelligent than the average Briton, and some Britons that can run faster than the average Kenyan. Of course, it also means that there will be some Kenyans and some Britons who are bad at both and that is, I think, a problem.

The other big problem is that the modern world has been built by and around people with skill A: high cognitive ability. There are places for people with other skills, in sports, in art, in music, but not as many. For a person with poor “A” skills and only average skills at “B”, the world is an unhappy place. Murray noted that a disproportionate number of the prison population have a low IQ. Some commentators have interpreted Murray to imply that Maori are over-represented in prison populations because they have (NB only on average) a lower IQ. No. People are not in prison because they have a low IQ (other than that it may mean a higher probability of being caught) – they are there because they have difficulty succeeding in a society that increasingly needs and rewards cognitive ability.

Maori are disproportionately behind bars not because they are Maori, but definitely because of colonialism. Colonialism brought a world that depended on a different skill set than that which their ancestors valued. Not that much different – most have adapted well and some have thrived. Lindsay Mitchell challenged the Murray hypothesis by pointing out that the high prison population is a recent phenomenon – it was not apparent mid last century. But a lot has changed since then. I remember my father (probably with a little exaggeration) complaining that the best-paid jobs in New Zealand were on the wharves, in the freezing works and in the wool stores. That is not true now. Back then, a young man with a job in the freezing works was a good marriage prospect. Now a girl is better off getting pregnant and being on benefit. As Jordan Peterson explains, we have a breeding ground for discontent and alienation. The welfare state (again brought by those bloody colonialists) has made things worse.

So what is the message? The message of the video is that we are all different. The message from Murray is that some people are better adapted to a world that values cognitive ability more than others and that, even within populations, abilities vary considerably. The message from Peterson is that responsibility is important to males and that without it anti-social behaviour will increase. What to do about it? Understanding the problem is key to finding the appropriate solution. Maori males are not in prison because they are discriminated against. They are not in prison because they have a lower IQ, even though low IQ is highly correlated with crime. They are there because they have difficulty coping with modern society. For the Maori that does point to a policy solution – their strength is as a warrior, but this is positively discouraged in today’s society. We can’t return to the 1950s but we do need to encourage the development of productive enterprises that do require the different skills of some sections of our population.


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A guest post submitted to Whaleoil and edited by Whaleoil staff.

Guest Post content does not necessarily reflect the views of the site or its editor. Guest Post content is offered for discussion and for alternative points of view.

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