'New Zealand's House of Parliament is the Central Police Station': Vaughan Rapatahana speaks out
In their declaration, these foes of the Chinese regime criticised the prospect of a free trade deal with New Zealand, complaining that, by doing business with a state with a history of dispossessing its indigenous people and joining in imperialist wars in places like Vietnam and Malaya, China was sacrificing its reputation as a champion of Third World nations and of oppressed peoples.
The statement which appeared on this blog was, of course, a fake. I tried to underline the text's satirical nature by identifying Li Ho, the famous medieval Chinese poet translated recently by Mike Johnson, as one of the dissidents who were supposedly speaking out against a free trade deal with colonialist New Zealand.
Despite my best intentions, my post was taken very seriously by more than a few patriotic Pakeha Kiwis. I got the odd message about 'Maori bludgers' and their 'gook mates', and I remember how my friend Michael Arnold sent a link to my post to a number of his friends and relatives, and in return received a series of vituperative e mails complaining about the way that 'Maori radicals' were 'blackening the reputation' of New Zealand abroad. Pakeha New Zealanders are, it seems, uncommonly sensitive to the suggestion that their state might possibly be complicit in the same sort of colonialism they are happy to condemn in Tibet, or the Northern Territory, or 'French' Polynesia.
Vaughan Rapatahana is a man who long since ceased worrying about the sensitivites of Pakeha New Zealanders. An educationalist, literary scholar, and poet, he has for some years now chosen to live in exile from New Zealand, out of disgust at what he sees as the rampant racism of Pakeha. Ironically enough, Vaughan finds it easier to live in modern-day China, the nation regarded as peculiarly evil by so many righteous liberal Kiwis, than in New Zealand.
In a statement he sent to this blog recently, Vaughan examines what he calls the 'mythology of Aotearoa'. I've reproduced Vaughan's angry, suggestive text not because I agree with all of it, nor even most of it, but because I think that it might stimulate an interesting debate.
I am 56. I am Te Atiawa, whilst on my late father's side I can also claim six generations New Zealand heritage back to the early 1840's. I have a home in Te Araroa, East Coast. I am married to a lady from the Philippines (Pampanga) where we also have a home. Her kids are Cantonese speaking. Our household is nothing if not multilingual. She speaks four languages too. My daughter lives in Australia. My son hung himself in Cannon's Creek in 2005, aged 29.
My ex-wife is Ngati Porou. Another ex is Ngapuhi. I refused to teach in middle-class orientated (qua Pakeha) secondary schools from 1993 onwards and wrote a letter quoting Illich to the then NZPPTA Journal stating this opposition. Except for a brief tenure in a Southland college in 2006 (horrible, racist) I have spent my time since as a teacher in Maori-orientated schools, or overseas, where I have spent at least 14 years in such places as The Republic of Nauru, UAE, Brunei Darussalam, China, and Hong Kong, 'teaching' the scoundrel English language to all-too-often unwilling indigenous.
I got a PhD in Existential Literary Criticism from University of Auckland, after spending most of my schooling years in Papatoetoe and working at Southdown Meatworks, Otahuhu. I am a published poet in several countries (e.g Thailand, Malaysia, Aotearoa, Philippines. Hong Kong), as well as a writer published online and in book form. My teaching resource 'English Through Poetry' series is currently available from User Friendly Resources, Christchurch...whilst my book Wilson as Mystic was published in U.K. some years prior.
And when I look at all this I shut up! Enough about me, eh. But I think I have had a fair bit of life experience to be able to comment about my homeland from the perspective of looking back, a Kiwi in China.
The mythology of Aotearoa
There are several myths pertaining to Aotearoa–New Zealand, the import of which is exacerbated the further I travel away from there, and the longer I do so. I am now a self-exiled Kiwi of mixed blood with a whakapapa on both sides extending back a minimum of six generations, who maintains a home there, but returns less and less. Kaore he hokinga ki taku kainga inaianei.
1.The myth of racial harmony. It is bullshit. There is NOT racial harmony in New Zealand, and never has been, and on any side of the cultural hexagram. Many Pakeha still remain steadfastly ignorant of what a Maori is and wants and sees/thinks, remain stuck in the rampant monolingual liddicoatism* of ‘what a funny language’ as regards te reo Maori, mired still in a postcolonial yet neocolonial anglocentric stupor whereby knighthoods have been disinterred, the bloody national ensign still flutters a union jack, and mean epithetical generalizations regarding Maori (and other Polynesian) education, crime, social welfare, customs prevail. These Pakeha have never been on a marae and never will go. [* ignorant bourgeois mentality, after a fellow expatriate Kiwi educationalist categorized Bahasa Melayu as such.]
Yet several Maori too are self-congratulatory, mutually exclusive, cast rigidly in the selfsame paradigm of static binary distance that they accuse the Pakeha of subscription to. They all too often also disparage other Polynesians, as well as some other (Maori) iwi not their own.
Filipino is a dirty word in Aotearoa (and indeed elsewhere), while Chinese are seen as avaricious and Asian, and therefore necessarily worthy of suspicion. Indians only run corner dairies (which is why they ‘are no good at soccer’) and there are ‘too many of them nowadays’ anyway. And so on…racial tension races like a conterminous computer virus across the divide, with no quick-fix Norton on site.
Why? Indubitably initially because of rampant colonialist greedy mendacity and the sheer despicability of a majority of the British ‘settlers’ in the 19th century and well beyond, in their conniving creation of the current systems, as maintained by the selfsame pale gatekeepers even now, despite/because of (neo)liberal lip-service and densely opaque ‘palliative measures’. These latter contrivances only continue the imbalance, the distance, the gulf between not only Maori and Pakeha, but also between Pakeha and the waves of the (imported) ‘new’ Kiwi labour force; and now also between some of the so-called (economically privileged and fiscally suited) ‘new’ Kiwis and the tangata whenua, the latter of whom still have far too much unwanted imperialized baggage to tote. It’s a handicap trotting carnival and Maori were never given the reins, let alone the riding boots. Shit, they weren’t even invited to the meet.
The history of Aotearoa was invented/continues to be invented by Nga Pakeha (and indeed some Maori) so that it resembled/s a palimpsest of what actually did occur, a front, a façade of Abel Tasman ‘discovering’ a land of plenty, where everyone strives on a ‘level playing field’: where everyone gets a ‘fair go’ from the impartial, unprejudiced referees stationed in police stations and school staff rooms which are actually also police stations. New Zealand’s House of Parliament is the Central Police Station.
Pakeha-inspired hegemony pervades and prevaricates like a pampered pet at a dog show, and shows no sign of ever spitting out the tasty bone of power. Witness the Mayor of Wanganui’s ignorant rants about Whanganui. Witness Don Brash’s Orewa ignominy. Until there is bona fide as potent counter-discourse extant to flush away this prevailing lush episteme, New Zealand will remain embroiled in the stew of racial dissonance – and the stew will only get more overcooked.
2. The myth of a social nirvana – Godzone. More crap. New Zealand is quantitatively qua statistically dysfunctional, populated with violent, misanthropic, narrow-minded, patriarchal, misogynist ‘mavens’ – on all racial fronts – all too often, disproportionately and very sadly, peopled and perpetrated by my own kind. Maori (and other Polynesians) whack as many of their ostensible ‘brothers’ and rape as many ‘sisters’ as do their doppelganger white ilk.
(Vicious) crime is bad, (youth) suicide rates are worse: a continued endemic fixation on rugby, racing and beer precludes any qualitative sensibility & sensitivity. Our most well-known poets are failed macho men, or otherwise categorized as ‘homos’; at best poofters.
Economically Aotearoa is also a gumpy tar trap with a tax rate beyond rescue. Tall poppies’ deeds are routinely eviscerated, and Murray Deaker pontificates like the Pope. And his audience is massive – which worries me somewhat. Who really gives a fuck who is a rugby saint? Will Ritchie Macaw go up to Rangitukia and fix the roof leaks of nga pakeke tino pohara?
It’s this tunnel-vision myopic hedge trimming of difference/diversity – not confined merely to rural southern swarthiness, not continued ‘just’ by middle-class males – that swims through my country as a scanty shark seeking prey, and that – ultimately -keeps me at bay.
There is a cringibility factor throughout my own land, an ignorance, a smugness, an implosive self-limiting wariness waiting to snarl ‘I told you so’ in self-congratulation, that is the snake in the garden. Until it slithers off to die somewhere, Aotearoa-New Zealand is no edenic haven.
Myths one and two are symbiotically obsolescent, twentieth century swill, which don’t recognize their overdue dating. Our history and therefore our essence urgently require a cogent, non-fictive and salutary revision. New Zealand needs a silver bullet right now.
Finally, of course there are far ‘worse’ places to live – I’ve inhabited some. Places where you breathe black coal shit diurnally or madmen chase you with drunken machetes.
But I am a New Zealander and I expect/demand much better.