It seems that I had, once again, forgotten that, when writing for a job, it is very hard to make the time to write in order to live, if you (and Henry Fielding) will excuse the mixed allusions. That's all I'm going to say about that.
I'm also going to - largely - ignore this week's controversy about someone I've long loathed - and instead, attempt to use the flurry of discussion about what consitutes racism in New Zealand as an entry into some stuff I've been thinking about. Unfortunately, it's not very trivial.
Henry's initial apology threw the conversation, for me, into another discourse entirely - with his self-deprecating reference to being "half a gippo", Henry, inadvertantly I might add, inserted this media fracas within the context of ancient and modern trauma. The persecution and maltreatment of the Roma people in Europe is well-documented - and still going on - and yet here in Aotearoa/New Zealand we have little understanding or knowledge of that past.
Which brings me to my point, I guess. Henry's classification of the New Zealand-born of Indian (by way of Fiji) descent Sir Anand Satyanand as failing to look like a 'real' New Zealander is, I consider, born out of the same stance that sees thousands clamouring to call themselves 'New Zealanders' on their census forms, or those who reject the unique nomenclature of Pakeha. It's a stance that refuses to recognise the diversity and depth of places we came from - sometimes centuries ago. This attitude sees the Prime Minister very rarely described as the son of a Jewish refugee from the Holocaust, and the son of an English migrant; his past is glossed over, and we have presented to us the self-made man - from state house to Parnell mansion in a lifetime.
That's not John Key's fault - this absence of back story is becoming increasingly common. Where once we had Michael King outlining his personal subject position each time he wrote - be it an article or a book - we now have Paul Moon slamming He Whakaputanga in the Herald without more than a Professor of History byline. I like the backstory, the subject position, the acknowledgement that we all write, or think, or feel, with some influence from the past - whether we have constructed ourselves anew in opposition to it or embrace the giants on whose shoulders we stand.
So I'm just wondering if we reclaimed this practise - an acknowledgement of whakapapa - we'd be less likely to think that saying so-and-so doesn't look like a 'real' New Zealander is not racism. We'd recognise that for what it is - the dismissal of a person's contribution based on an attribute about themselves that they cannot change and for which they are not responsible. We'd start judging those in the public sphere - be that the media or government - on character; that aspect of self for which we are responsible.