Hard News by Russell Brown

Three Things

Hey mate. No, not you … him. Yeah, you. Is the most profound and constructive way you can find of expressing your New Zealandness really entering redundant data on your census form? Why not read a New Zealand author? Write something yourself? Go to the beach, do the garden, watch rugby, cook food, whatever. Your choice. Go wild, Kiwi.

Yes, you're a New Zealander. Me too. We all are. And we could all write in "New Zealander" under the ethnicity question. In which case, there is no point in continuing to have such a question. But that would be dumb. The ethnic makeup of the country is precisely the kind of data that a census is supposed to reap. Doug Myers can celebrate our "remarkable homogenity" in this meandering, contradictory bit of dinner-party fluff, but the fact is that we are becoming more diverse, and it is useful to know about that.

I'm deeply interested in national identity; I even edited a book about it last year. I've had the experience, common to so many New Zealanders, of travelling to, and living in, Europe - and realising in short order that I'm not European. I'm of the Pacific.

But for goodness sake, the "New Zealand European" option on the form is just shorthand for "New Zealander of European extraction", isn't it? I'll happily answer to that. I'm actually quite interested in it, particularly in my maternal line, the Saurbreys, who moved from southern Germany to Denmark (where they still seem quite plentiful), and thence to London, where they anglicised to "Saulbrey" and then headed out for the new world more than a hundred years ago. On the other side of the tree, I've had special feelings of heritage sitting on a misty hill in Scotland. I know where I'm at - but I'm proud of where I came from.

I could, of course, enter some mix of German-Danish-Scottish-English on the form - you can claim as many ethnicities as you like and all are accorded equal weight - but it really doesn't seem necessary. If the same people bitching about this year's census form hadn't nagged it into removal, I'd be happy to tick "Pakeha". But mostly, I'm a New Zealander. Of European extraction.

I see the marijuana-being-laced-with-P story aired on 20/20 has now turned up in the Central Leader and the Herald. I'll believe it when it actually makes any sense.

Pure methamphetamine costs $1000 a gram. At the most broken-down street level, marijuana sells for $15 a gram, tops. I'll grant that it's possible that the odd gang may have tried spiking dope with P and selling it as "supergrass" or something (lord knows marketing has been a key driver in the P plague), but the idea that it is being sold to unknowing kids to get them hooked on P seems plainly silly.

Contrary to popular belief, users don't actually "smoke" P. They gently heat the crystals in the bowl of a glass pipe and inhale the vapour that comes off them. If they heat them too strongly, the crystals burn and are wasted. I guess crystals smoked in a joint would have some effect, but it would be an extremely inefficient process.

You'd probably have to put $30 to $50 worth of P in a $20 bullet to produce a reasonable buzz, and then it would be gone. P addiction doesn't work like that: it's based on a near-fetishisation of the smoking device itself, and on going back for another hit, then another, and then back to the dealer for more. Including it unadvertised in marijuana would rather seem to defeat the point.

I wonder if this is really another round for the old urban myth, from two decades ago, about dealers putting heroin in marijuana to recruit new addicts. That didn't make much sense either. But this is a topic on which people can pretty much say what they like and have it reported unchallenged. Witness Campbell Live recently giving screen time to an ex-cop who made the provably ludicrous claim that more New Zealanders now smoke P than marijuana.

And finally … David Benson Pope has been arrogant and deceitful in his handling of accusations about his time as a teacher. The actions themselves do not seem particularly wicked (and the fact that a former pupil who claims to have been slapped on the leg with a ruler one day in German class is saying she'll go to the police is simply surreal) but he has misled the House and by rights should be gone.

But Labour has decided to hang tough, and was hugely helped in that strategy last week by the lack of common decency displayed by Benson Pope's tormentors. Both Rodney Hide and National's Judith Collins used Parliamentary privilege to call Benson Pope a "pervert". Hide also called him a "dirty old man". To say such poisonous characterisations are not supported by the evidence is putting it mildly. There is probably no worse accusation you can make against a man than to baselessly call him a paedophile - and that is what both Hide and Collins did.

The fact that Collins used a cute rhetorical device to deliver her smear only made it worse. The smirk on her face as she got up to wallow in the sewer last week was one of the nastiest things I can recall seeing in our Parliament. In seeking to lay waste to Benson Pope's character, she has revealed something about her own.