From an undisclosed location overseas, expatriate NZer Suzuki Samurai muses on the embarrassment of being outed as a kiwi...
When living away from your place of birth, after being asked your name most people ask where you’re from. These days, I mumble the answer. I wish they'd guess a couple of alternatives so I can simply say “Yes.”
I'm often accused of being either English or Australian, not uncommon for a New Zealander I guess. (Oddly enough the only time someone has guessed right was when a turbaned shopkeeper in Manhattan asked me where in New Zealand I was from?!? True story. It turns out this delightful fellow's brother [which can mean cousin, neighbour or friend] owns – you guessed it – a dairy in South Auckland).
So why, I ask myself, is the very idea of proudly (or at least audibly) stating that I come from New Zealand such a struggle for me now?
Once upon a time I was as fierce a nationalist as anyone, frothing at the mouth in derision at anyone who didn't know at least the first verse to the national anthem; or pointing my finger in accusation of any recalcitrant who didn't show sufficient deference to the flag. Blah blah pavlova phar lap blah blah blah.
I'm embarrassed when I think back to me then. Nationalism at the time seemed to me an excellent alternative to thinking.
Anyway, so again, why? I think my antipathy developed for three basic reasons:
- seeing other Anglo/American expats “proudly” making nationalistic dicks of themselves; and
- how New Zealanders, especially skinny white ones, seem to find it necessary to take their shirts off and 'perform' the haka in pubs and on the street in foreign countries; and
- being from somewhere does not necessarily define what I think and do.
[Why does Dave Dobbyn get a free pass? – Ed.]
This week's cringe on this topic came from the NZ Herald's report on American magazine show 60 minutes doing a story about the All Blacks, along with the learned commentary about the alleged importance of the haka in their match performance. If you are not cringing yet, just watch Dame John Kirwan make a twat of himself. Again.
What a bunch of unmitigated bollocks.
The All Blacks were dominating the game even when the Haka was simply comical (look at the news reels of just 40-60 years ago for wee laugh). We were dominating even when Terry Wright and Alan Hewson were jumping up and down and waving their arms a-rhythmically.
But now that the haka is a more well-practiced demonstration of stone-age psychotic lunacy, the story going around is that it’s critical to esprit de corps.
Essential to esprit de corps? Tell that to the All Skinny Whites who helped tip Italy out of the last soccer World Cup despite forgoing the haka. (“''Skinny white guys doing the haka?'', said captain Ryan Nelsen, shaking his head when asked whether his team would be putting on a show of pre-match mental muscle. ''Mmm. Very intimidating'.'') Essential to victory? Tell that to the NZ Rugby League team which loses often, embarrassingly, by huge margins, usually while complaining pre-test that they don't spend enough game-time together -- yet find plenty of time to bond while practicing jumping up and down, clapping hands, and poking out their tongues as if garroted.
Of course nothing compares to the truly bizarre spectacle of wheelchair-bound basketball players engaged in this stupidity.
However, I'd not like to see the haka leave the game entirely as there is some entertainment merit in it -- as demonstrated by the Mexican softball team's response to it years ago when some of their players started rolling around on the ground laughing while others did cartwheels. Yes, it happened, and I'd have paid money to see it. Or the sight of David Campese kicking the ball to himself under the goalposts while a bunch of blokes in black danced badly at the other end. Or the very funny occurrence at a sports match in Utah where a sheriff, upon seeing a group of Samoans hakaing, thought they were rioting so started to pepper spray and attempt to arrest the 'rioters.'
Brilliant fun, not to be abandoned altogether. In fact, I think the IRB should double down on the entertainment value by making pre-match jumping up and down and hand clapping mandatory for every team – the Irish could juggle pints of Guinness and then play the first half with a large potato – there obsession with that vegetable would make them a fearsome opponent, especially when drunk. Also when drunk (not being limited to any given occasion of course), the Scots could do a pre-match simulation of a traditional Glaswegian wedding -- the head-butting and inter-team stabbing would surely psych them up, if not their opponents. The English’s Morris dancing, naturally, would surely bore their opponents out of the game. Not so the French can-can, especially if guest stars allowed. Meanwhile, the Fijians could show us their contemporary war dance called the coup d'état.
But I digress.
Really though, I do think I'd like to be proud of where I come from. But I still have to figure out what that means. So as a start I propose an idea for a new NZ flag that might make me proud again if it were truer. It is inspired by the turbaned shopkeeper I met in New York, and by believers in trade and open societies wherever they may exist. It is this:
Long may it fly.
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Suzuki Samurai is NOT PC’s roving correspondent from all places north and west. He is currently renovating the David Campese memorial dancing trophy in northwest Paraburdoo.