Random Play by Graham Reid

59

Racial’s coming home . . . to roost

One of the many amusing things I am discovering as I get older, is the sense of deja-vu I often get: I laughed out loud at the suggestion the other day that student union fees be made voluntary.

That was deja-vu all over again.

Time also allows you a longer view and maybe even some sense of perspective. You get to pace your outrage and have other reference points for it.

I can recall when Nga Tamatoa first emerged on the cusp of the Sixties/Seventies and they started bandying around incendiary phrases like, “honour the Treaty”. Many people thought the next step would be seeing their baches fire-bombed by Maori radicals who were demanding their beach back.
Time moves slowly.

And then the Polynesian Panthers emerged and accused some aspects of New Zealand society of being racist.

Again, as with what Nga Tamatoa said, that now seems a given. Some people and institutions clearly were, and some regrettably still are.

Nothing wrong with accepting that uncomfortable truth. We need to keep working on it, though.

Then there was the rise of those banshee feminists who demanded equal pay for equal work and many right-thinking people -- women among them -- thought that that was not only outrageous but would destroy the family unit and bankrupt the country.

And so it goes.

Like that old debate in music -- “can a white man sing the blues?” -- there was once serious discussion about whether a minority people (Maori and Polynesian in our case) could actually be racist. Because, the argument went, racism was about power so the only people who could be racist were the power-holders.

Well, we know the answer to that -- but now it has been given a new spin because institutionalised racism has reared its head again in this fine country, and it’s a weird one.

The largely anonymous, mild-mannered NZ Geographic Board?

Who would have picked that?

In truth, their recommendation that the ’h’ should be put back in “Wanganui” (where it actually is in much signage anyway) isn’t “racist” but “ray-schist” according to the town’s mayor Michael Laws.

The irony of him tossing an “h” into a perfectly serviceable, easily pronounced and oh-so familiar word won’t be lost on anyone.

But watching the man on television last night I thought he was . . . well frankly, I think he’s nuts to the point of being ready for the white coat.

This is a man whose default position is that of a talkback host/provocateur but of course now he’s on the backfoot he has nowhere else to go. He has painted himself into a corner and so is obliged to come out swinging -- and other such cliches.

Rational discussion is clearly now beyond him on this issue, stamping his angry foot and using buzz-words is more to his liking.

He goes for that last refuge of all scoundrels and appeals to patriotism, in this case in the guise of “democracy”.

To personalise this debate -- which of course could be held intelligently and without the mad staring eyes and hysterical waving of the arms -- and suggest it is Tariana Turia against the good people of the town is just absurd.
And that by extension anyone who goes along with the measured recommendation the NZGB came up with -- without grandstanding, wild eyes and flappy hands -- is now pandering to Maori interests (or specifically Turia) is just plain bonkers.

But then just about everything about this discussion coming from the mayor has been.

Righting historical grievances is what grown-up societies do.

No one is actually going to be hurt by the name correction, although Laws would have us believe there will be rioting in the streets when the good folks get really riled up.

I doubt that.

Although those who have lived even longer than me might say otherwise: they might see mass rallies and flag waving, the demonising of a minority group and the cult of personality building around Laws.

Yes, certainly the good people of W(h)anganui did vote to retain the original spelling -- but . . .

Hmm. That reminds me. Adolf Hitler was voted in democratically and enjoyed majority support.
Didn’t always make him right though.

In fact, wasn’t he just a wee bit ray-schist?

Footnote: As always, lots of new music, articles, reviews and so on posted at Elsewhere.

     
Graham Reid is the author of the book 'The Idiot Boy Who Flew'.

(Click here to find out more)

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