Sunday, 15 May 2005

Of ethnics and being kiwi

As Robert Benchley once said, there are two kinds of people: those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who don't. I'm the latter kind.

And there are two things I hate. (There's actually a lot few more than that, but that's for another day. Bear with me here.)

There are two things I hate. People who put people into categories, and those who hate those who do. I'm the latter sort.

People who put people into categories based on their 'ethnicity' are particularly vile. And people who put such questions in official Government Census forms -- forms that they then bully you in an Official Government Census Form Manner to fill in -- deserve a particularly vile rung in the hell to which all such bureaucrats are irrevocaably destined.

The Herald today however gushingly reports that census officials will still be heading to hell, but that they will be relaxing the ethnicity question next time (I paraphrase the report ever so slightly). Rungs in hell are accordingly being prepared slightly further from the flames for those census officials.

"New Zealanders better than Kiwis, say officials" is how the report is headed. Which brings me to my point (which I do have, I assure you) which is this: Is anyone else sick of being called a 'Kiwi'?

Am I the only one who feels there's something wrong with having a name known throughout the world as being associated with either 1) a tin of shoe polish; or 2) a small, blind, flightless evolutionary loser.

Surely we can do better than that, can't we?


  1. No, Kiwi is cool. That is simply stated, but it's us in the same way that Yanks describe Americans and Poms describe Brits. Each word evokes a certain image and there is much good in the Kiwi. The other option would be Tuatara or Weta and can you imagine how much fun the Aussies would have with that?

  2. No, I have no problem with it whatsoever. Unlike tincanman's two examples, which are both (rightly) regarded as mild insults by the named groups, I find nothing derogatory in Kiwi at all. So, like tcm, I think Kiwi is cool.

    PC, I also think you misunderestimate what people think of when they hear kiwi. I have never met anyone who has associated the word with shoe polish first and foremost. But I have met many many more who think first of the the fruit, rather than the bird.

  3. There are two kinds of people PC hates, and he is of the second kind.

    "There are two things I hate. People who put people into categories, and those who hate those who do. I'm the latter sort."


    Who hates catagories? Catagories are great! There's far too much information in our day to deal with unless we have conceptualisations and stereotypes to simplify our fragmented lives. How do you tell people and their preferences apart without catagorisation? Some people I have contracts with, some I don't. Some have paied, some not. Some people make good allies, others not. Try getting through a day pretending otherwise. Try running for an electorate without running the numbers. There is a reason the adds for toys run between children's TV shows and a reason
    telephone sex services run in the wee hours. As for ethnic stereotypes, how come black men can't swim and white men can't sprint? Like all powerful tools,
    generalisation can be a great friend or a terrible enemy. I'm delighted every time I find a new way to orgaise humans and human action.

    Catagorisation rocks, and there are few groups one could be more proud to belong to than to be a Kiwi. And PC has got it completely back the front about polish and bird. The nation is not a symbol of its icons, icons are a symbols of the nation and ours is not to be sold short.

  4. BB, during WW2 there used to be a magazine for American soldiers called "Yank". I think it's only considered an insult if you think to be called an American is to be insulted.

    PC, doesn't bother me being called a Kiwi.

  5. I completely agree nzers shouldnt be called kiwis, or at least not so often! its literally seen everywhere now and it should be kept to a minimum. do you hear many americans referring to themselves as yanks?


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