Yellow Peril by Tze Ming Mok

Naked fear

Don Brash looked up 'feminist' in the OED, and decided that he is one after all, even if he isn't a woman. But is his wero-phobia Victorian prudishness about naked natives or confusion over whether he might also be Maori as well as a feminist?

PRESENTER: What about the haka before an All Black rugby test? Is it a good look?

BRASH: I'm very comfortable and relaxed about that. I'm more relaxed about that than I am about some of the official welcomes that foreign visitors get. They must wonder what kind of country they get when the only official welcome they have is? is a Maori New Zealander jumping around half naked. I mean, I think there is a place for Maori culture but why is it that we always use a semi-naked male, sometimes quite pale-skinned Maori, leaping around in, you know, mock battle?

I've had a wee jibe about this already in the No Right Turn comments box. Quoting, um, myself now, out of laziness not self-importance:

Is a pale-skinned Maori not a real Maori? Does he think it would confuse the visitor if their 'half-naked savage' was obviously also part 'European'? Is it not even a real wero if the Maori performing it isn't dark enough? I don't get it. Or maybe if they're a bit of a tub, Brash finds the big white wobbly belly aspect of it distasteful.

To me this all just seems like Brash is making some kind of subconscious appeal for hotter, sexier, well-oiled half-naked wero-performers.

Either that, or he genuinely wants international visitors to think they've arrived in England rather than New Zealand.

Having previously attempted to craft race-relations solutions for the psyche of Don Brash here, I thought I might keep going.

1. Comfier, Sexier, wero

Taking the first angle, we needn't look far to find the perfect hot sexy oiled-up pale-skinned half-naked jumping Maori to make Brash "comfortable and relaxed" in representing New Zealand to international dignitaries through either a traditional wero, or in the spirit of compromise, a half-naked rendition of the Te Rauparaha Haka.

Ah, Carlos. He might have to twink out his sexy tattoos though. They look a bit too Maori.

I'm hoping that if Brash can accept this, then in the spirit of reciprocity (which he should be familiar with because he has a Chinese wife) he would also agree to adopting an election platform of demanding the All Blacks perform their international test-match haka topless also, thus raising the National Party's appeal with female voters, pouring on more of that 'feminism' stuff.

2. Returning to New Zealand to the rule of the British

Both my parents saw the independence of their countries from Britain when they were growing up. Can you imagine what it was like to be a teenager in the decolonising third world of the fifties and sixties? It was a time for the birth of rock n' roll, for the collapse of Empire, the birth of freedom. Malaysia has Merdeka Day. That's Freedom Day to you bub. Singapore's National day likewise is a celebration of their Independence day. Back then everyone looked up to India, which threw off the oppressive shackles of colonialism first of all the colonies. Britain sucked! Except for the Beatles and the Animals and the Stones. And maybe Herman's Hermits, and Gerry and the Pacemakers. But the Empire, the Empire, people hated the British Empire like they hate the American Empire now. Brash's desire for a return to the cold British handshake-on-arrival and Knighthoods and OBEs seems to me not just personally irrelevant, but historically backward. I mean - where does he think we are?

But it's not about me. It's about Don Brash. When did New Zealand declare independence? Does the date stick out for you? I can only recall that it was offered independence and didn't take it to start with. How lame is that. Awww, poor widdle country doesn't want to gwow up and leave home. Yes, our national day is closer to marking the start of colonial rule than the end of it. The day that people really think of as the cutting of the apron strings, the kicking of the adult offspring out of the basement bedroom and into the real world after too long spongeing off the parents, was when the UK joined the EEC and ended New Zealand's open access to British markets. I don't think they're really going to want us back, are they?

But waaiiit a minute, if Turkey can join, why can't we? Eh? Eh? New Zealand is more 'European' than Turkey, isn't it? It's more 'European' than Bosnia surely? I mean, Bosnia is white, but they're, like, Muslim! Who let them in? Eh? Okay, for Don Brash's sake, say we manage to join the European Union as a clip-on to the United Kingdom, through virtue of being about 75% white and kind of talking like Cockneys who got sent far far away from East London two hundred years ago... where would we find ourselves? In a place with... oh... ongoing devolution to indigenous regional parliaments and increasing protection of indigenous languages, culture and even accents through television channels, radio and arts support... and regular celebration of a history full of half-naked savages jumping up and down. Such as this one:

Bugger. But if it it was all happening in 'Europe', then this sort of cultural policy would actually be a 'European' way of doing things, right? And then Don would be more comfortable and relaxed about it. Hooray!

3. Assuaging Don's fears that he might actually be Maori.

In Brash's wero-discomfort, he seems openly confused about what a 'pale-skinned' Maori representing Maori and New Zealand culture, might actually signify. It seems a kind of fear. What is he so scared of? That he might make a racist joke in front of someone he assumed was white? Wait a minute... His entire Treaty policy is a racist joke, told in front of a nation who he assumes is all white. No, that can't be it.

Consider this. Said Don to Dallow after the 'not a feminist' debacle:

"[A]pparently a feminist can be a man or a woman, I didn’t know that."

And as he is newly quite keen to point out:

"[A]pparently a Maori can have both Maori heritage and non-Maori heritage, I didn't know that."

Actually, he didn't say that second bit. But this sense of duality, of miscegenation and the messiness of self-defined and hybrid identity, seems to seriously disturb him. He said it during the leader's debate when he declared it ridiculous that someone who looked "no different from you or I" might actually claim to be Maori. Now, he didn't go so far as to say, as Winston Peters has, that these pale-Maori who claim to be Maori are actually fake Maori. But one can only conclude Don Brash's discomfort stems from a secret worry that he might be Maori, but that he never even knew, because he looks just like "you or I."

'No different from you or I." Says it all really. When he said that, he meant a person who looked "no different" to himself or his interviewer Mark Sainsbury, because for him, the gold standard of mainstream identity is a pair of middle-aged to elderly white men (hair and moustaches optional). 'You or I' for Brash simply could not include the variegated masses of the New Zealand public to whom the debate was being broadcast as part of a national political discourse.

Fair enough though, that if 'you' are, say, Keith Ng, and 'I' am me, it is still possible that someone who 'looked no different from you or I' could still sneakily identify as Maori. For example:

One of these people is Maori, the other is not. Feel free to lay bets. The fact that my Maori-Chinese friend Maryann 'looks no different' from myself or Don Brash's Singaporean wife, and yet has a strong Maori identity, disturbs Don Brash. The fact of her very existence disturbs Don Brash. The fact that he is disturbed by this, disturbs me. Given Brash's penchant for East-Asian lovelies, I get the

feeling that if Maryann and I stripped half-naked and jumped up and down in greeting, he might become a bit more comfortable and less disturbed about Maori ceremonial displays and racial mixing.

Maryann and I however, would be traumatised.

What about if the 'you and I' he referred to included 'Maori-looking' people? How about if 'you' were Carlos Spencer and 'I' were... no this is tricky daydream-digression territory. How about if 'you' were Georgina Te Heuheu and 'I' were... no, no, I have to give up this tortured analogy, because I'm not confident Don Brash can ever relate to Maori as actual people like 'you and I', no matter how hypothetical they are. No wonder he's freaking out that Maori might be able to blend into normal society like 'you and I'. What if his first wife was secretly Maori? what if his children are secretly Maori? What if Je Lan is secretly Maori? Then who is he? If identity, history and blood really are the maelstrom of confluences that our late-modern-slash-post-modern-slash-postcolonial nation would have it, Don Brash is in serious trouble.

All we can realistically do to reassure him on this point, is that he is as white as whitey can get. Even if he were Maori, he'd still be really really white.


P.S. I have given up cutting-and-pasting macrons from Che Tibby's posts. One of these days I'll figure out how to make them myself.

P.P.S. How many posts in a row have I gone hammer-and-tongs at the National Party over race? It's not very balanced. I have to say at this point, that over the return of the ghost of Orewa, the Labour Party has been utterly pathetic. Intellectually barren, cowardly, and pathetic. For all that Jordan Carter says nice liberal things at the right moment,

what kind of a party record here could he possibly defend?