Keeping it Kiwi

When you’re really down a big black political hole and no one’s listening – there’s only one thing for it. Pull the race card. Make the whole thing about a generic cosmic battle between US and THEM. Winnie, bless his pinstriped socks has done it again and despite the wearisome predictability I’m always surprised at how good it all sounds. “Let’s make New Zealand for New Zealanders”.

Fair enough. Except who decides who’s a New Zealander and what would the criteria be?

If the Maori party said exactly the same thing would it be talking about the same New Zealanders as the Grey Power Tauranga set that this speech was aimed at? Would they be allowed to pass this off as just another benign immigration policy (on which they reserved the right to act retrospectively by at least, lets say – ooh 160 odd years), or would they get lambasted in the media for being inflammatory? It’s a cheap shot and everyone knows it, but politicians wouldn’t pull the race card if, in some dark, sad corner of our collective psyche, it didn’t work often enough to make it worth it for them.

Meeting a friend recently for lunch I commented on her fabulous hair, cut she said, by a new immigrant named, exotically; Lola. Admiring Lola’s courage in starting over in a new country without much English, my friend was taken aback when a po-faced rather elderly grudge next to her sniffed that it was not Lola but her employer who should be commended on taking ‘such an enormous risk’ in employing someone ‘foreign’. Watching Lola cut hair was obviously all the job interview that’d been needed. Big risk or big business? I know why she was employed and I know it had nothing to do with charity.

What reason then for the Edmonds Sure to Rise, Perm and Set Kiwi citizen to think otherwise?

Latent racism? Surely not. Not here. We’re nice. And friendly. Just as long as you don’t want to be our friend.

Is it the charity of allowing ‘one of them’ to become ‘one of the sacred us’? Do we feel threatened by letting the outside in? Have we really been inbreeding that long? We, (and here I’m talking the pakeha, gringo, waiguoren ‘we’) secretly think, in our old boys clubs, that we are the owners of Godzone and woe betide anyone who wants to share a bit of it.

It’s the arrogance and precarious logic of a desperate newcomer. ‘We’ let ‘them’ in to pick fruit or look after our elderly or even have enough in their bank account but will get upset if they buy local businesses and then employ us.

We make it almost impossible for dentists and nurses to register in New Zealand and force them to do expensive English tests that most professional kiwis would fail if they weren’t given the expensive tutoring. And then we wonder why we are haemorrhaging immigrant nurses, dentists and doctors to Australia and the States both of which have a far more rational registration system for immigrant professionals and indeed pay better. Much better to make the system expensive, obtuse and unachievable and then we get to pay highly qualified nurses a ‘caregivers’ salary and hope that their numbers can bolster up our creaking health system.

No surprise either that the Indian community have just discovered that even after 4 generations of living here they don’t get promotions, don’t get paid as well as their pakeha colleagues and can’t break that glass ceiling into management. I guess they can always buy a dairy and pretend they didn’t really want to be the CEO after all.

Being constantly locked out tends to get people antsy after awhile. It irritates, exasperates and eventually infuriates those on the receiving end and can get really ugly after a generation or two. It can lead to ethnic rioting and extremely bad haircuts by women called Lola.

Time for a little prayer in Godzone . How about, “God of Nations at thy feet, in the bonds of love we meet.” Or would that really be too risky? Don’t want too much cross-cultural love happening because then WE would be… THEM.

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