Tuesday, January 17, 2006

speaking of sexual perversions ...

... The Whig is extraordinarily fascinating, like watching a car crash in slow motion, albeit where where one of cars is filled with crazed naked felching-fetishists, and the other car is piloted by a lone frottagist with a death wish.

If you don't know what felching is ... you should really go ask your parents; if they don't know, well maybe you could all look it up on the internet together?

But this post isn't about any of that, I just put that title up so I could steal Brain Stab's audience of perverts and reprobates (by the way, that's a link to the dictionary definition, not a link to actual pictures of reprobates, more's the pity. I'd link to The Whig again but I'm already over quota in my persecution). No, actually I was interested in the decision by the census people to add in a new category of ethnic identity - New Zealander/Kiwi.

I'm going to be frank (yes, that's Mr Frank Stupid!), disagree with some of my friends, and say that this is a stupid idea. It's stupid for two reasons; firstly, New Zealander is a primary group, of which ethnic identity is a subset - so when you state that your ethnic identity is New Zealander you are actually suggesting that anyone with a different ethnic identity isn't a New Zealander. Which is, you know, bollocks.

Personally, I'm happy to have appropriated the word Pakeha. I've never got to the bottom of whether it was originally an offensive term (did someone translate it for me as "long pig"? actually I kind of like that one too, it's got a certain charm). At a pinch if you want to go with a physical description then you can call me white; it's not an accurate description anymore than calling someone black is, but it's perfectly fine from the point of view that people immediately understand what it means. European as an ethnic identity, on the other hand, is as silly as New Zealander is - New Zealand has come a ways as a nation, but at root our over-arching culture is Western European - ultimately British - and that culture informs the discourse of anyone who is indigenous (i.e. born here) or has been here for more than a few years. You might primarily self-identify as Maori, or Chinese, or Dutch - but you also part European for reasons that have nothing to do with your parents and your genetic heritage.

Which brings me to the other reason I think the census-takers are barking up the wrong tree. The whole question is stupid. Really, at the end of the day who cares what the ethnic make-up of the nation is? Does it, or more pertinently, should it, really affect our day to day lives? If the country is 64% pakeha, 15% maori, 12% chinese, 9% other ... is it anything other than a curiousity? Do you read the figures, leap out your chair and shout "Mein Gott! 12% of the country is chinese! To the Holden V6 Batmobile, we must ..." what? What should we be doing? I really get the feeling we are counting because once upon a time we thought the issue was important, and to be frank, it isn't at the macro level (on micro level, on the other hand, I agree it can be very important).

Hell, why don't we get the census-takers to be honest: we just want you to tell us what colour you are. Go on, which of following describes you:
  • blanched almond
  • burlywood
  • bisque
  • firebrick
  • tomato
  • indian red
  • coral
  • antique white
  • sienna
  • chocolate
  • dark goldenrod
  • salmon
  • chartreuse
... or my favorite, navajo white. Which, if I didn't know better, I would have thought was a particularly good grade of New Mexican cocaine, but no, it's a colour.

Finally, because we're discussing the misuse of ethnicity, take a read of this discussion on Aarvaark. It's all about the light sentence given to Richard Minarapa Mitai-Ngatai, who headbutted a Dutch tourist because of a perceived disrespect towards the traditional welcome being performed. The contention being expressed is that Mr Mitai-Ngatai got off easy either because it he was maori and/or because it was a maori cultural ceremony, so, you know, part of the PC-do-gooder-liberal-feminazis secret agenda/conspiracy. To which I say this: when I read the Herald article I can pluck out several reasons why Mr Mitai-Ngatai got a light sentence of 150 hours of community service:
Judge Chris McGuire said while he was swayed by the "glowing references" for Mitai-Ngatai ... The case was a tragedy for Mitai-Ngatai, who had no previous convictions ... Judge McGuire said the sentence was mitigated by by Mitai-Ngatai's remorse, his early guilty plea, and his almost immediate attempts to apologise.
In other words, it is a gross mistake to think the sentence had anything to do with the ethnic identity of the offender, and my money is on a similar sentence being given out for the same circumstances. Or, to put it another way, if I ran into my local church during mass and started a humourous monologue about how Christ was a homosexual whilst pissing on the altar - I wouldn't be surprised if someone punched me in the face. But I would press charges, because in a civilised society you don't punch people in the face because you think they an an arsehole, or even if they are demonstrably an arsehole. There are better ways.

That being said, the fact that Mr Mitai-Ngatai is, quote, "unapologetic" about leaving the Dutch tourist with a broken nose and two black eyes is a clear sign that he is a grade-A, prime cut of an arsehole, and really needs to learn how to chill out and take a joke. Or get some counselling for that humourless muthafucker.

... trying to define racism is like trying to execute the Schlieffen Plan without Dorothée: because 99% of the time you end up looking foolish, no one really enjoys themselves, and you just can't shake the feeling that something important is missing. But I'll take a stab at a basic definition: Racism is where you interpret someone's actions based their colour or ethnic identity, and discount that the person is an individual in their own right, and their actions can better be ascribed to their individual character and circumstances.

Expand and Discuss. (25 points)

9 comments:

Apathy Jack said...

On the census form, I always tick "Other" and fill in NZ Pakeha.

Sure, I've heard the rumours that it originally meant all sorts of bad things, but "Queer" used to mean bizarre and unusual...

Josh said...

Yeah, I quite like "Pakeha" -- it's a nice unique way of saying "generically white". From what I've read, suggestions that it comes from the Maori words for "pig" or "flea" have little basis in fact.

span said...

dredging up my memory of a Treaty course i went on last year, i think the adoption of the word Pakeha happened because it was a Maori transliteration of the word they heard white people (probably at that time largely whalers) calling each other a lot, so they thought it might be our name for ourselves. That original word was probably "Bugger"...

But i might be confusing that story with how we ended up calling Maori, Maori. it was the word that the early settlers heard the brown indigenes calling each other, although it just means "common" or "people", rather than referring to their own name for their race.

I could also be a bit off the track and wallowing in my usual PC liberal la la land.

Tau Iwi by the way just means "other iwi" i.e. not one of the iwi we already know. It's not offensive at all.

Rich said...

The census isn't some big expression of identity thing you know. All the data gets summarised and no-one will see what you put until 2106, by which time you're unlikely to be around.

They just want to enable researchers to make a practical measurement of, for instance, diabetes rates in different groups. Useful work in making peoples lives better - why stuff them up by using the census as an excuse for dick-waving?

Incidentally, there is no real statistical problem in allowing people to answer with more than one ethnicity. Stats NZ just need to offer datasets cut 3 ways:
- by ethnicity combination, so that each recorded combination (e.g. Hispanic/Pacific Islander/African) becomes a group in itself
- by each declared ethnicity (will add up to > 100%)
- using a priority scheme, so Maori+anything=Maori, etc.

On the basher - I can't understand why you think 150hrs unreasonably lenient. First offence, other serious consequences (loss of long term job), unlikely to reoffend (no-one is going to hire him to powhiri tourists in a hurry!). Why clog the jails any more?

span said...

here's Tim Selwyn's take on the headbutting case, which I thought you might be interested in:
http://tumeke.blogspot.com/2006/01/bashing-maori-performance-art-at.html

Herr Dummkopf von Kranken-Brainen said...

Personally I like the way language changes - Pakeha becomes a kosher word to New Zealanders, queer becomes an owned word for the gay community instead of an insult - hell, I think "gay" has to be the quickest changing word around - from gay meaning joyous, to meaning homosexual (something bemoaned by old fuddy-duddies who don't like "their" word being stolen), to being abducted wholesale by the South Park generation as an insult. I like word mutation, it shows we aren't stupifying.

re: what I said about 150 hours being lenient - I guess I was a bit loose with that comment. It seems like a light sentence but I'm no expert on the subject. Does anyone know whether DoJ publishes stats on this sort of thing?

Blair said...

I'm still trying to figure out whether that was a compliment or an insult...

Herr Dummkopf von Kranken-Brainen said...

... a little bit from column A, a little bit from column B ... I wouldn't let you go out with my daughter (if I had one), but I do have a few chuckles at your blog if that helps ...

span said...

I think you should decide to be insulted Blair, then you could up the ante...