Responding to Brian Rudman’s Push for More Nationalism and Less Dragons

Yesterday a friend of Kiwese sent through this opinion piece: ‘Why focus on other cultures and not our own?’ by NZ Herald columnist Brian Rudman. I eyeballed it somewhat carefully – any article that opens with possessive pronouns around culture and a cartoon dragon engulfing a white, flag-waving, Fred Dagg figure in a wife beater warrants several deep breaths through the nose and a hot cup of tea before commencing.

Bring on the insecure white man searching for national identity.

Brian, so sorry to hear you’re upset about the growth of the Lantern Festival. Does it make you feel under represented? Were there no people of your colour performing? Did the stories not resonate with your own personal upbringing? Welcome to being an ethnic group in New Zealand, it’s so lovely of you to join us.

There seems to be an awful lot of soul searching in the way of national identity recently. That’ll be the flag referendum doing its job, appealing us to identify and belong to the state, soon to be controlled by our Jonkey Wall Street overlords.

Members of the dominant group in society tend to have weaker ethnic identities than members of minority groups. Pakeha New Zealanders have a tendency to conflate ethnicity with nationality, “I’m just a Kiwi.” Not English, half-Finnish, Scottish, just Kiwi.

Upon reading Rudman’s article, it’s clear New Zealand’s “just a kiwi” cultural black hole is gaping wide open. You can fill it with as much pav and rugby as you want, but it just doesn’t taste quite as good as deep fried wontons with sweet and sour sauce.

Brian’s ‘heart sank’ upon hearing the Auckland City Council’s suggestion of extending Chinese New Year celebrations in Auckland. It’s not like Chinese culture was silenced, ridiculed and caricatured for like, the first 150 years of settlement in Aotearoa. How dare Auckland even think of further representing a large and diverse ethnic group by sharing and celebrating their collective traditions over a festival period! Outrageous!

Here’s a play by play of Brian’s argument.

“Quality celebration of all our cultures more sorely needed than a parade each.”

Right? It’s would be so much better to condense our cultural celebrations into one rather than taking the time to appreciate and understand them individually. More bang for that tax payer buck, too. Who needs Matariki, Chinese New Year, Diwali, Holi, Paniyiri, Pasifika, Songkran, Mid-Autumn Festival…

Someone call the Minister of Ethnic Communities, he’ll sort us out a trestle table and kitchen and we’ll do the whole lot on one day, to lessen the impact on your fledgling, national ego.

“Instead of attempting what will always be a poor man’s imitation of a foreign festival…”

Complains about Council spending on Chinese New Year – calls the festival ‘poor man.’ My family put up our time-honoured, plastic tree from the Warehouse each Christmas. Are we a poor man’s imitation of a foreign festival? From 16th century Germany perhaps?

Auckland is Auckland, not Beijing, Jakarta or Taipei, meaning the annual Lantern Festival draws on our Cantonese, Hong Kong, Taiwanese, Singaporean, Malaysian, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Thai, Mainland Chinese, Korean, Filipino and NA (non-Asian) roots to celebrate Chinese New Year together.

Where else can you get a nasi goreng chased with L&P, Peking duck pancakes, steamed pork buns and sticky rice followed by hokey pokey ice-cream? Worth celebrating, I reckon.

“Our teams haka their way around the world, strutting our unique brand wherever they compete.”

Brian, Tikanga Maori is not a brand. It does not exist to make you feel like a big man in your All Blacks jersey at the pub.

Who would believe it; 176 years old and we still can’t even organise a decent national birthday party for ourselves.

Or: 176 years since the British forged a treaty in Maori and English with different meanings in each then confiscated land for white settlers with the backing of the Crown. Woop, birthday party!

“Now, if we’re not careful, our major population centre is about to lose that date to foreign dragon puppets.”

Wow. Foreign dragon puppets, really? Never mind that over 20% of people living in this major population centre are of Asian descent, or that 80% of Aucklanders are up for a $5 pad thai, the Lantern Festival exists for foreign dragon puppets. Gotcha.

“Talk about dumb Kiwis. We haven’t rid ourselves of our previous colonial masters, and now we’re flirting with a new one.”

Hold on Brian, are you really comparing Chinese New Year celebrations in Auckland with the colonisation of New Zealand and subjugation of its native inhabitants?

Enter, 没人在:

For Chinese people to do what Pākehā did to Māori in Aotearoa, we would have to impose a Chinese legal system and government, make a treaty in Chinese and English which has different meanings and then not honour either of them anyway by stealing and confiscating land, ban English and assault children who speak it at school, make practicing western biomedicine illegal, wipe out most of the population with SARS or something, and make sure criminal justice system disproportionately incarcerates Pākehā and that Pākehā have the lowest life expectancy and health outcomes. Just for kicks, any Pākehā seen as dissenting against Chinese rule will be chucked into prison under a law like Suppression of Rebellion or Terrorism Act.

That’s okay though because we would reserve four seats for you in parliament.

Looking forward to oppressing your people,

<Insert Chinese sounding name>

(On behalf of the Asian Invasion)

(via 没人在,

“We should be saying sorry, early February is taken. If you want to party, bring your dragons and your fireworks to our show. The embarrassing thing is, we don’t really have one.”

Possessive pronouns like ‘we’ and ‘our’ are kinda scary, like, who is Brian talking to? I think he is appealing to ‘New Zealanders’ – but keeping in mind earlier usage of the phrase ‘foreign dragon puppets,’ those of dragon descent can consider themselves left out of Brian’s mighty, nationalist utopia.

As for the rest of you, you should be out there telling that loving Auckland aunty to put away her wok and dumpling steamer in February cos bitch that date is TAKEN. Oppressing and silencing Asian cultures – the true blue Kiwi way.

Let us reflect on the reasons Pakeha New Zealanders don’t have a special cultural festival of their own. They used to last century – Empire Day! Where everyone would parade the streets with Union Jack flags to celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday. What happened? I guess imperialism lost its shine, Britain became less of a mate after joining the European Economic Community in 1973 and the old parades were replaced by silver ferned assurances that ‘we are NOT Britain!’

Chinese New Year is great and everyone is invited. White people dominate the mainstream cultural narrative for the rest of the year. When I was a kid, I asked mum why there’s a Mothers Day and Father’s Day, but no Children’s Day.

‘Everyday is Children’s Day!’ she beamed, hoeing into her annual Mother’s Day box of Scorched Almonds. This applies here too, everyday is (Pakeha) New Zealand Day!

“…lift Waitangi Day celebrations out of dysfunctional Waitangi, and create a new-style national birthday.”

Yes, let’s just forget all the historical injustices which have led to the social inequality, economic hardship and disrespected mana of the tangatawhenua and forge a NEW national BIRTHDAY where we can all get drunk and not feel bad about it, like Australia!

“A parade that represents all the groups that make up present-day Auckland, swirling pipes bands, throbbing Island drums, bobbing dragons, the lot.”

Yeah!! Then we can all hold hands and be happy and stand in a semi-circle around a rainbow and…

Brian’s suggested alternative to Auckland’s ’embarrassing’ lack of a national holiday display that stacks up against a Lunar New Year celebration observed by a fifth of the world’s population is essentially a ‘Waitangi National Day multicultural parade.’

Let me put it this way. Imagine if the Rugby World Cup, Cricket World Cup, Fifa World Cup, Netball World Cup, Wimbledon, NBA, PGA, Super 15, AFL and the Olympics were all condensed into one period. We’d have an overpacked event where we acknowledge the existence of sport, each code would get a fraction of the limelight to be appreciated and understood, and the whole thing would fly by in a piecemeal recognition of the already bleedingly obvious fact that there are a lot of different sports. No depth. No play by play analysis. No repeats. Just onto the next.

Don’t worry Brian, being an ethnic group in New Zealand isn’t so bad. You could have a Morris Dancing stage and serve meat with two veg at your ethnic food stall. But if and when you get bored, we’ll be happy to share our HK-style barbecue roast duck, Taiwanese pancakes, steamed pork buns, beef rendang, hot and spicy tofu, barely legal fireworks and dragons. There’s plenty to go round.

Sincerely, The Rest of Us.

Header image an Australian anti-Chinese cartoon from 1886, which the illustration from the NZ Herald piece in question has a frightening resemblance to.