For the record

I had prepared a thorough response to Chris Trotter’s Fiji Agonistes post, and was going to wait a few more days to see whether he reposted it on Bowalley Road before publishing it. Now Chris has saved me the trouble by redacting his post with an apology of sorts. Kiwipolitico is not the place for perpetuating such disagreements, and so I’ll leave it be with a few final words.

I remain a bit disappointed that Chris hasn’t bothered to engage with my previous critiques, and I agree somewhat with Lurgee’s assessment that he’s been dickwaving to try to gain status as “the alpha-male of the leftish bloglands”. While I was indeed furious enough with the personal attacks* to come out blazing against them, I was not behind the redaction; that’s Chris’ own doing. So, Chris, thank you – and while nothing is forgotten, I appreciate your good sense in this matter.


*The `kupapa Pakeha’ attack was the most offensive, and I can’t let it go unmentioned. I’ve heard that one before – a man with a bald head and steel-capped boots in Molly Malone’s once called me a `race traitor’ on account of my wearing a Tino Rangatiratanga hoodie. Not very progressive, that.

5 thoughts on “For the record

  1. That’s better. Now you boys just shake hands and buckle down again or woe betide you – another outburst like that and you’ll both be over my desk for a taste of Mr Whippy…..

    Back on the serious matter of the letter aitch, I must say that personally I’m relieved that Mr Laws supports the more laissez-faire “common-use” concept for nomenclature, and look forward to him welcoming its application for other proper nouns.
    For example, I am sure he will accept this spelling of his own name (which I have employed for many years until it now has widespread legitimacy which surely cannot be usurped by some bunch of anonymous, unelected bureaucrats)as follows: “Miceal Mascara-Bantamrooster-Pipsqueakpopulist-Laws”.

  2. Lew: good that your reason and rationale prevailed, and that Chris was smart enough to know that it is better to withdraw that continue with a defeated argument.

    I will say that I am surprised how quickly things became personalised, and how you have responded in this post. I have had a few nasty personal comments laid on me in the commentary on my posts, but usually choose not to respond (unless they are profane). Having been raised in Latin America I know the perils of being overly protective of one’s “honor,” which I assume (after ten years in NZ) is equivalent to “mana.” I would assume that you know the same.

    So, why do you rise to the bait? Care to explain why a simple slur like kupapa Pakeha becomes a reason to invoke the kiwipolitico name? Is it the Pakeha equivalent of Oreo or banana, and if so, so what? No offense intended, as I think that Trotter was wrong and the personal insult was his inadvertent admission that he had no good argument (his withdrawal of the post is more proof of that). But I am not getting why the degree of animus over an “h” and Fiji, or why we (as self-professed intellectuals interested in dispassionate argument) should respond to personal insults.

  3. Pablo,

    I know the perils of being overly protective of one’s “honor,” which I assume (after ten years in NZ) is equivalent to “mana.” I would assume that you know the same.

    I’m not all that concerned for my honour, but the slurs constitute an attack on my argument. My major thesis in the h debate, and the wider issue of tino rangatiratanga, has been that people pick a side according to identity and then adopt arguments which support it, but that this is neither helpful nor intellectually honest.

    Care to explain why a simple slur like kupapa Pakeha becomes a reason to invoke the kiwipolitico name? Is it the Pakeha equivalent of Oreo or banana, and if so, so what?

    Yeah, it is that – but it’s a bit more loaded than those, more similar to `Uncle Tom’, or somewhat stronger than `appeaser’ or `collaborator’ in the WWII European context. (I don’t presume to lecture, but I’m not sure how familiar you are with NZ colonial history – so please excuse me if I do). `Kupapa’ (`friendly’) Māori were those who fought alongside the British (though not necessarily because they agreed with the British programme; many were settling their own tribal feuds, etc.) They were treated preferentially by the settlers but were generally seen by other Māori to have undermined the various self-determination movements of the time as traitors in a race war – and the term has taken on connotations of traitorousness and disloyalty rather than cooperativeness and loyalty as the word actually means. Using the term nowadays presupposes a few quite alarming things, including: 1. that there is a race war on, possible outcomes of which are all zero-sum (which I dispute); 2. that the two sides are equivalent (which they’re manifestly not); and 3. that the `correct’ side for a given person to choose is determined by their ethnicity, rather than by the historical or philosophical facts of the case and a person’s own relationship to them. The objection to `kupapa Pākehā’ isn’t so much that it’s offensive as a personal attack on me as it is an assault on the grounds of my argument and the argument in principle that the NZ race-relations experiment embodies – that matters like this can be resolved without resort to racial knee-jerk, and indeed that they must be if the resolution is to persist. More recently, Ranginui Walker (and others) have talked about the roles played by Māori politicians (especially) as `subalterns’ to colonial power – a similar construct which doesn’t carry the race war implications above, and with which I broadly agree. Whereas `kupapa Pākehā’ is an ideological framing (concerned with loyalty and identity), `subaltern’ is in this context a pragmatic framing (concerned with results or effects); not very useful as a slur but quite useful as a means of assessing political behaviour.

    So, that’s a very long-winded way of saying that the whole argument is a matter of identity, and I’m trying to demonstrate how that’s not very helpful – and that slurs are part of the argument, not divorced from it.


  4. Cheers for that Lew. I appreciate the tutorial. I just did not want to see you dragged down into a slagging match with Trotter when you have more important things to write about.

  5. The similar identity issue in the USA would be the cultural war between those who see the USA as a Christian nation to be governed by a Christian government and those who see it as a secular society – Christians who support it being a secular society are seen as guilty of betrayal of the cause to bring in or maintain a Christian dominion. The 44th President was thus attacked by some for seeing non believers as part of his America.

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