Beneath the facade of our supposedly tolerant, modern and multicultural society, lies a seething undercurrent of bigotry, racism and ignorance

As an Asian immigrant who first arrived to these shores 36 years ago, I am grateful for what New Zealand has given me and my family. I also like to believe that I have contributed something back to this country. My family certainly has.

But in the ensuing debate following Paul Henry's remarks, I have seriously questioned the premise of whether I should continue to describe myself as a New Zealander. Beneath the facade of our supposedly tolerant, modern and multicultural society, lies a seething undercurrent of bigotry, racism and ignorance.

I mean no disrespect to all those courageous individuals that have risen to challenge Paul Henry’s boorish performances. It is indeed heartening to note how many have stood up and, as Sue Bradford has so eloquently put it, said, “Not in my name, Paul Henry”.

Yet, sadly, it boils down to the numbers. Living in cosmopolitan Wellington, it is easy to forget about how parochial and insular much of New Zealand still remains. I fear that behind the voices of the liberal intellectuals and those fighting for social justice, TVNZ’s initial defence of Henry – that he is prepared to say what the silent majority are thinking – might well be true.

In a recent Close Up poll, 82% of respondents believed that our government should not have apologised to the Indian government following Henry’s deprecating mockery of the Chief Minister of India’s surname. A similar poll conducted by 3 News found that 64% of respondents did not believe Paul Henry should be sacked. Of course, two opinion polls do not reflect the sentiments of the entire nation, but there is an undeniably large constituency to whom the Paul Henrys of this land deliberately stoop to pander (and whose viewership generates substantial advertising revenue for our state broadcaster).

To all who continue to believe our government shouldn’t have apologised to India, I have this to say. New Zealand appears to be suffering from a country-version of the ‘short-man syndrome’. Godzone is really not that much more than a vast dairy farm at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

By contrast, India is an emerging giant at the heart of Asia and a technological superpower. It launches satellites into space and is at the cutting edge of scientific innovation. Its best and brightest university graduates are sought after across the world. It also has a burgeoning middle class approaching 300 million. True, it also still has hundreds of millions living in poverty, but it has only been independent for 63 years (following centuries of colonial domination in which its rich resources were ruthlessly exploited to fill the coffers in Whitehall). While India produced about 25% of world industrial output in 1750, by 1900, this figure had fallen to only 2%. In short, the industrialisation of England was accompanied by the active de-industrialisation of India.

To those who believe it is appropriate for a state-funded public broadcaster in New Zealand to insult the Chief Minister of the capital city of India, I say this. Pull the wool back from over your eyes, tear down the veil of ignorance that you are living behind and face the stark reality of the 21st century.

After five centuries at the helm of international affairs, the era of Western hegemony is coming to an end. Asia is on the ascendency. Much of the world wouldn’t bat an eyelid if New Zealand sank into the sea tomorrow. We need India much more than India needs us. Our diplomats, trade officials and business leaders have been working hard to broaden and deepen our relationship with India. We don’t need individuals like Paul Henry undermining their efforts. Our High Commissioner’s apology in Delhi was nothing but correct. As was Henry’s decision to resign, although he will no doubt now be perceived as a martyr in many quarters. TVNZ must follow through on its promise to review its editorial policies and processes to avoid a repeat of this embarrassing fiasco.

I am proud of my South Asian heritage and of my brown skin. Until recently, I was also proud to describe myself as a New Zealander. But if being a New Zealander means having to choose between renouncing my cultural heritage or accepting ‘Kiwi values’ (whatever that may mean – getting pissed while watching the rugby perhaps?), then I would rather remain a ‘foreigner’ for the rest of my life.

Comments (45)

by Petra Paignton on October 11, 2010
Petra Paignton

For what it's worth, Sanji, I'm not an intellectual and I'm not in the city, but you are a New Zealander to me. And if given the choice of who to invite as a dinner guest to a party - the average Kiwi yob, or you - I would without hesitation choose you. Hold your head high as both an Asian and a Kiwi, and never let the miscreants kill your dignity and your spirit. You are better than them.


Be well. :)


by Petra Paignton on October 11, 2010
Petra Paignton

Also - nearly forgot! - pay no attention to the txt polls or online polls. They are very easily skewed as people can "vote" repeatedly.

by stuart munro on October 11, 2010
stuart munro

Indeed, Nothing in Breakfast became him like the leaving it.


by Mark Wilson on October 11, 2010
Mark Wilson

You miss the point entirely of a great deal of the concern expressed  by many New Zealanders.

Few in fact do support Henry in making what was a boorish and stupid comment.

However many were concerned by the viciousness of the response, the sheer hatred expressed by many of the complainants and the total lack of perspective.

Many consider that sort of behaviour is not the New Zealand way, and that disaproval can be expressed without that sort of venom.

It is of course absurd that NZ officially apologized for a TV commentators statements. I have read comments in the Indian media that make his comments look mild by comparison. Is India going to officially apologize to NZ? Or is that acceptable hypocrisy?

As to your comments denigrating the West, they are a bit rich given Asia's endemic corruption, appalling human rights record and unimaginable poverty levels. I asssume that is entirely our fault and Asia bears no responsibilty for that?

PS - I will happily bet that  in a 100 years time the West will be still along way in front of Asia.  Until China and India find a way to minimise the wealth inequality they are going to have to deal with increasing instabilty. 


by Claire Browning on October 11, 2010
Claire Browning

Many consider that sort of behaviour is not the New Zealand way, and that disapproval can be expressed without that sort of venom ...

Great constructive effort, Mark! The whole comment shows real progress -- no editing required -- but I enjoyed the above part, in particular.

by Andrew Geddis on October 11, 2010
Andrew Geddis

"Until China and India find a way to minimise the wealth inequality they are going to have to deal with increasing instabilty."

I may be wrong, but I think Mark just called for China and India to introduce higher levels of tax on the rich and redistributive social programs for the poor ... do we allow this sort of leftist drivel in our comments section?

by MikeM on October 11, 2010

TVNZ’s initial defence of Henry – that he is prepared to say what the silent majority are thinking – might well be true.

Hi Sanji. It might be. I don't know if it's a majority, but a significant number of people were happy enough to make their presence known.

The beauty of thought is that nobody should have to know what I'm thinking, and it shouldn't be anyone's business (including TVNZ) to tell me or make assumptions about what's going through my head unless I choose to tell them. If it's illegal or somehow immoral to think about something or consider ideas, it'd be impossible to come up with conclusions, and that'd be worse for so many reasons. Every so often I do try to question what I think, and sometimes it leads me down trails of thought that I'd later be embarassed to admit I even considered. But by the end of it I have a better idea of why I've decided something's good or bad.

People should be judged on how they behave.  I've had silent chuckles in my head about things I'd be embarassed to admit in public. I don't go on television and blurt them out, usually not even in front of trusted friends for that matter. Some people do.

I've never felt much affinity with Paul Henry and I've lost respect for TVNZ's management for the duration that it's kept him there.  Surely the latest problems can't be considered a surprise. With the stage and encouragement and ongoing support and publicity TVNZ gave him, he'd been working people up for ages and it could only have been a matter of time before something he said attracted major international attention and condemnation. I don't know if a diplomatic apology would normally be appropriate but, as you've said, it makes some sense economically with India's influence, and possibly the blurring of understanding between the populations of what a "state owned broadcaster" is.

It's just really sad, I think, that so many people our there choose to behave in ways that alienate and irrationally discriminate against others. This is a real problem, and I kind-of hope Paul Henry will rebuild something constructive from here because he's such a role model to so many people, many of whom probably don't see his attempted jokes and jabbing in the same lighthearted way that he probably does himself. I'm not holding out much for it, though. I think it's more likely someone else will just give him a stage to continue doing what he did.

by Petra Paignton on October 11, 2010
Petra Paignton

...Asia's endemic corruption, appalling human rights record and unimaginable poverty levels...

They should read Edward Bernay's "The Engineering of Consent", then they too can work out how to hide all that as well as the West can - all the while making their populations think they are precious and individual little snowflakes who are divinely entitled to have everything they want at whatever cost.

As Groucho Marx once said, "the secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you fake that, you've got it made."

by stuart munro on October 11, 2010
stuart munro

@ Mark

I will happily bet that  in a 100 years time the West will be still along way in front of Asia.

The west is not in front of Asia in most areas now

by Claire Browning on October 11, 2010
Claire Browning

Surely the latest problems can't be considered a surprise ...

Especially since he won Peoples' Choice. Saw that one coming, a mile off ... just didn't expect it to arrive quite so quickly, or to backfire quite so loud.

do we allow this sort of leftist drivel in our comments section?

It's the word 'drivel' I've got my eye on, actually. Better watch yourself, Andrew ...

by Mark Wilson on October 11, 2010
Mark Wilson

Claire and Andrew - I can't think of the written equivalent to a nose thumb but I acknowledge they were good shots.


by Ryan on October 11, 2010

Sanji- although you have been here 36 years, you still seem to identify primarily with India. You seem to believe it is a superior country - a potential superpower- while describing New Zealand as a "vast dairy farm at the bottom of the ocean" and the typical New Zealander as "getting pissed while watching the rugby".

Some people would ask- why are you here? If India was so terrific then why did you leave to come to a vast dairy farm at the bottom of the world? And when you express views like those above, what are you hoping to achieve?

I noticed while I was watching the TV coverage of the fallout from the Paul Henry comments how much of the indignation came from Indians wearing traditional Indian clothing and  calling Indian radio. Most immigrants to New Zealand don't assimilate. They wish to retain their own culture while dismissing the New Zealand culture. Some unfortunately have a superior attitude.

You see, the treacherous elite who sold off our national assets, drove away our brightest and best and then brought in numerous immigrants to drive down wages  never asked the permission of  your average New Zealander to do these things. It was foisted upon people.  Having Paul Henry sacked because of interference from another country just fuels the fire for some people and confirms just how powerless they are and how much sovereignty we have lost as a nation.

There is more than one side to this debate, and the feelings of white New Zealanders deserve acknowledgement too. For example I grew up in Auckland. The area I grew up in was once white middle class. When I visit the area now 25 years on it has become an Indian enclave. The expression that the past is another country is literally true for me and yes, I have feelings about it. The city I live in now also has an Indian enclave.

If you and your fellow countrymen want to dampen down the ill feeling towards your race, perhaps it is time you did your bit and made an effort to assimilate properly into this country instead of using it as a convenient place to educate your  children so they can move on to countries you deem to be more desirable.


by Bruce Thorpe on October 11, 2010
Bruce Thorpe

Take heart Sanji,

some of us who have families dating back many generations have also felt at times it is an awful mistake to be living here.

However the good news is that there are a great number of Kiwis who have worked steadily, when necessary bravely , and intelligently to make this country an open hearted free thinking and fair minded nation.

We have always been a strange mix of colonialist chauvinism and various seekers of truth and freedom.

Hang in there, we need all the allies we can gather for what will be an endless contest between mean spirited, vengeful bigots and those of us who willh fight on for ever, and ever and ever.

by Ben Curran on October 11, 2010
Ben Curran

@Ryan. Calling NZ a vast dairy farm at the bottom of the ocean is not that same thing as calling it a bad place. It's possible that some people like dairy farms. By the same token, calling India a potential superpower is not the same thing as saying everyone wants to live there.Also, so what if they were wearing indian dress, people of chinese descent wear chinese clothing occasionally, and you what, people of european descent wear european styles of clothing quite often as well. It doesn't make them less of a New Zealander. And talk about your feelings if must but don't you dare talk about "the feelings of white New Zealanders" which lumps me in with your fear-filled little rant.

@Sanji, while I've got no problem with an apology being offered to the Indian government, the offensive comments having been made on a state owned broadcasting service, I would disagree with your rationale for doing so. The apology shouldn't be made because India is a potential super power. Apologies should be made because it's the right thing to do. If we had a government that cowtowed just because the other country in the conversation was powerful, we would still have American nuclear ships calling into our ports.



by Mr Magoo on October 11, 2010
Mr Magoo

Here we go again.

But I have to say Sanji: what an excellent post. You stirred the pot just enough without spilling any over the side. Very clever.

One thing the less tolerant cannot stand is being vindicated somehow - in their minds anyway. Their righteous fury has no equal.

The top 5 most racist people I have ever met were not white at all. In fact a white person was not even involved anywhere.

This is not about the race of the person, but the intolerance.

In saying all that. I don't think ANY of this was ever about how awesome india is vs nz?

Red herring anyone?

by Petra Paignton on October 11, 2010
Petra Paignton

I remember too when NZ was even more parochial than it is now. Where the food was stodgy and tasteless, and anything that had any flavour at all was known as "foreign muck". Thank goodness, we finally expanded our palettes and culinary skills to something other than plain meat and three vege, dripped with some meat flavoured lard.

I adored the Holi festival fun in Rotorua last summer, and eagerly await the next one. The joyfulness, the colours, the smells, the sounds - I love it.

I adore that I can find food from so many nations here - South America, Asian, Middle Eastern, African, etc - all cooked and served authentically, by expats of their respective countries. I love that I can share a smile and a joke with them as I enjoy their food and listen to their music.

They want to be friends and be a part of us. It is us that does not let them, because too many of us fear their "otherness". It's stupid!

I love going to the markets and supermarkets and trying the different culinary products and influences.

I love that they have two identities, or more, and celebrate each one - the culture/s of their parents, and the one that they have adopted here in NZ. (I myself am German born - came here when I was 5. My mother is German, my deceased "real" father was British & Irish, and my adopted Kiwi father is Maori, British and Scottish. I celebrate all those aspects of me, denying none. Strangely, no one has ever questioned my Kiwiness or right to be called a NZer - how very half pai of them).

I love NZ. I love it's diversity and it's give every one a go attitude (despite the odd redneck knuckle dragger who can't hack change and progress and beautiful humanity).

I love that my daughter, back when she was in Primary School, brought home a new girl from Cambodia who couldn't speak a word of English. Now they're teenagers, and Phearet is amazing. She's Kiwi as, mate. But she's also Cambodian and she's gorgeous. I love her and I'm pleased we have her here. She'll make us proud one day, too.

To those of you who harken back to the bland and stodgy monoculture of days passed, I feel sorry for you. You're missing out on so much. So much life and colour and wonder. Good god, enrich yourselves!



by Petra Paignton on October 11, 2010
Petra Paignton

Oops, my little rant there was for Ryan, in response to his wishing immigrants would assimilate more and drop their own cultures.

by Sanji Gunasekara on October 11, 2010
Sanji Gunasekara

For the record, I am not from India nor am I aware of having any "fellow countrymen" from that nation. My wife, like our Governor General, is a "born-and-bred" New Zealander - except that she has white skin and is of European ancestry. Incidentally Ryan, she looks splendid wearing a sari. And before lamenting about how powerless you feel or "how much sovereignty we have lost as a nation", might I suggest that you pause and ask that very same question to Tuhoe - or indeed to any other indigenous New Zealander?

by NiuZila on October 11, 2010

I agree with Ben Curran.  We shouldn't be stopping racism because a country is a super-power, but because it is the right thing to do!

As for Ryan, I am a Samoan born and bred in New Zealand.  I love wearing my lavalava when I have to quickly pop down to the dairy to buy a can of coconut cream to add to the taro cooking in the kitchen.  Does that mean I'm not assimilated?  Heck no, I've been schooled here, went to University, and work in an ugly high-rise building in the CBD to pay taxes like everybody else.

by Petra Paignton on October 11, 2010
Petra Paignton

"However many were concerned by the viciousness of the response, the sheer hatred expressed by many of the complainants and the total lack of perspective.

Nothing like this, Mark:

"“October the 29th is international run down a rag head day all Indians killed or maimed will be eligible for points 1 point per male 2 points for females and 3 points for kids.”"

" Lets go beat up indian students"

"Sheila Dikshit for anal whore.

These are just a few of the comments made on Henry's TVNZ affiliated Facebook page

In chasing ratings and the advertising dollar they have bought into and nurtured the culture of hate. Hate is the new black it seems. Bigotry, the hot new fashion accessory. Wear it anywhere. "Express Yourself


by Bruce Thorpe on October 11, 2010
Bruce Thorpe

does anybody else see the similarity with the teabaggers in the States?

This is the  logical development from an increasingly populist media, like the nasty British tabloids, the American Fox news and the rather worrying takeover of our major media by a kind of "international" editorial culture.

I am more than happy to see an injection of widely experienced journos doing their stint in this country's media, but I am worried that increasingly we have journalists without much direct connection to the country they are currently working in, or feel much responsibility to build an understanding and respect for the leadership of the country in which they are currently holding a job.

In a world where Oprah, or some "shock jock" is the nearest thing to a fellow spirit for an increasing number of people.



by stuart munro on October 11, 2010
stuart munro

@ Petra

I did not notice a dearth of hatred directed at anyone questioning the party line on Henry either. Suppose we excuse Sanji's dismissal of kiwi culture, and Ryan's prescription of assimilation as hyperbole, how can we move forward?

I suspect that broad applications of the term 'racist' will not radically improve what appears to be a reasonably serious set of conflicts of interests. It is readily apparent that our leaders have no plan - the PM was after all fishing for Paul Henry's perspective, or at least its popular appeal, when it all went pear-shaped.

Sanji's appraisal of NZ is somewhat accurate, and the destruction of the NZ middle class described by Ryan remains a serious issue irrespective of who subsequently moved into their housing. Current policy is essentially similar to the prevailing policy for the last three decades. Perhaps Einstein's comment is applicable: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".


by stuart munro on October 11, 2010
stuart munro

@ Bruce - The tea party may not be a spontaneous response to government or cynical reporting; it may not be even be a genuine social movement.,_coors,_newt,_dick_armey_there_from_the_start/

by Ryan on October 11, 2010

Sanji -  I fail to see the point of your article. If you are as integrated into NZ society as you say then surely you can let comments such as Mr Henry's go by. What exactly are you trying to say?

By wading into this argument I was trying to articulate the thoughts and feelings of the people viewed as great unwashed  who get slammed with the 'you're a racist" line whenever they express some discomfort with the way things are going in NZ. The point I was trying to make is that  some New Zealanders may have good reason to feel uncomfortable about the high level of  immigration into this country. But they are denied a point of view.

New Zealand is now one of the most heterogeneous countries on earth and it is mostly a very tolerant place. If people weren't so tolerant we would have had race riots by now. Really, if the only sign of people's discomfort is anonymous texting to online polls, then those who promote mass immigration into this country ought to breathe a sigh of relief.As a biological truth- humans are evolved to live in small groups of related people. What is happening in New Zealand is rather pushing the limits.

New Zealanders have up until now accepted the miserable results of the total mismanagement of this country over the past 25 years. Mismanagement that has led to some 20 percent of our graduates leaving- some sort of unenviable world record. If you have an able child you know you are probably going to watch your overseas born grandkids grow up on Facebook. The young we lose are replaced by people from other cultures. I think there in lies the problem- it is not just who is coming here but also the loss of the NZ born young.

I would have thought that it would be better to let people express their point of view on these matters without bringing out the bigot, rascist tags. So much better to let people say what they think- to suppress it will only lead to more anger.

And by the way- I share very little of the point of view I feel should be allowed to be expressed.

by Mark Bennett on October 11, 2010
Mark Bennett

my favourite take on the 'it's changed around here' debate


by Ben Curran on October 12, 2010
Ben Curran

@Ryan. Okay, so maybe you were trying to articulate the views of those you call the great unwashed (they must be so happy to have you on their side). Even if you have manged to articulate that view, that does not protect that view from criticsm.You are allowed to express that view. No one is stopping you, no one is locking you up or holding a gun to your head.

The right to express those views however does not protect those views from criticism. The other side of the coin is that those of us who think that the the casual racism that gets tossed around in this country with the "I'm not a racist but" disclaimer, also have a point of view and the freedom to express it. It pretty much boils down to you're allowed to say it, we're allowed to say it's a horrid, indefensible little peice of 6 month old half digested tripe.

So your mythical unwashed masses, which you so gallantly champion, might be getting called racist, because what they are saying and the position they are defending, is ... racist.

And don't start with the attempting to apply "it's a biological truth" angle to a social situation like this. It's a slippery slope and no one will like where that leads.


Oh, and Mark, two thumbs up for that clip.

by NiuZila on October 12, 2010

Ryan, the problem I have with your statement (and it's exactly what was wrong with Paul Henry's comments) is the use of the term "New Zealander" to equate to an exclusive part of the population.  On the face of your above comment, a "New Zealander" is a person who has lived here for at least the last 25 years.  Reading between the lines, a "New Zealander" is most likely a Pakeha/European (and probably Maori) who were once part of a homogeneous society (but probably ignoring Maori) but have in the last 25 years seen "mass" immigration (despite Maori seeing "mass" immigration for the last 200 odd years), and some or many are uncomfortable with it.

We are all immigrants to New Zealand, and Pakeha/Europeans do not have a monopoly on the label "New Zealander".

by Andrew Geddis on October 12, 2010
Andrew Geddis

@ Ryan: "New Zealand is now one of the most heterogeneous countries on earth ... ."

Is it really? I know comparisons are difficult due to how ethnicity is measured/reported, but Statistics NZ projects that by 2026 NZ's population will be 69.5% European/other, 16% Maori, 16% Asian and 9.5% Pacifica. I'm not sure even this mix really would qualify us as "one of the most heterogeneous countries on earth" ... and our current population is even more "white bread" in its make-up!

by Karen on October 12, 2010

I am not surprised Henry was compelled to resign. People are usually punished far harder for telling a heinous truth than for telling a heinous lie.

Who will be honest enough to admit Paul Henry died for their sins?

by Ryan on October 12, 2010

Andrew- countries like Australia and England who have also had fairly open immigration policies still retain over 90% European and not much change to that figure is predicted. Some projections suggest Europeans will be a minority in New Zealand by 2050, so as a percentage of population there are big changes coming to the European community in this country. Then there are countries like Japan who remain almost exclusively homogeneous. You would have to say that we are on the liberal end of the multicultural spectrum.

What does strike me is that in spite of all the feel good stuff around multiculturalism, even new immigrants don't buy into it. They, like most groups, prefer to be surrounded by people of their own culture. They come here for opportunities, education and healthcare (ie the first world infrastructure set up by the much maligned european settlers) and not particularly to integrate with the natives. They are just trying to get ahead in life like everyone else.

The research on multiculturalism says that the price we pay as a society is decreased trust and decreased involvement. It isn't  necessarily all good.

But anyway- this is where we are in 21st century New Zealand. I hope one day the debate can extend to an honest discussion about how we all get along together. After all, racism cuts across all groups in New Zealand- take Melissa Lee's comments about South Auckland for example. And speaking of South Auckland, I wonder how Maori leaders feel about certain ethnic groups setting up alcohol shops on virtually every corner and flooding low income communities with cheap liquor. Ethnic groups preying on other ethnic groups- it's not all rosy out there. 


by Claire Browning on October 12, 2010
Claire Browning

I wonder how Maori leaders feel about certain ethnic groups setting up alcohol shops on virtually every corner and flooding low income communities with cheap liquor ...

Was that the "much maligned european settlers" you were referring to there, Ryan? Ever stop to think about where we were in 19th century New Zealand, on your mental travels?

by stuart munro on October 12, 2010
stuart munro

One item that makes the multiculturalism seem a little false to me, is that when one attends a 'multicultural event' in New Zealand, one may eat Tamil samosas, and meet concerned Tibetans, Nigerians and Somalis ready to discuss their festive cuisine, Pacific Islanders or Pacific Island descended New Zealanders if you prefer. But there is never a pakeha culture exhibit. I'm not sure if this is an extension of cultural cringe from the days when Pakeha New Zealanders identified England as home, or that NZ multiculturalism is only a veneer, an entertainment. But in other countries, people are not obliged to be ashamed of their culture, on the contrary, they celebrate it.

by Chris de Lisle on October 13, 2010
Chris de Lisle

@ Ryan: It has not been my personal experience that ethnic groups don't get involved in wider New Zealand life. I've been befriended by, educated with, worked with and had economic transactions with people of many many different ethnic origins and I don't think my experience is unique. Maybe ethnic groups don't assimilate, but they definitely do integrate.

@ Sanji: I think that India's growing power is why we apologised to them. I don't think it is why we should be apologising to them; if we had insulted some tiny nation, say Andorra, as unreasonably as why did India an apology would have been just as justified.

@ Mark: "I will happily bet that  in a 100 years time the West will be still along way in front of Asia.  Until China and India find a way to minimise the wealth inequality they are going to have to deal with increasing instabilty." Surely the West was leaping out ahead long before it even began to think about minimising wealth inequality? There are a lot of ways in which what is happening in China and India now resembles what happened in Western Europe and America during the Industrial Revolution. That process clearly increased Western power and wealth, why shouldn't it do the same for China & India?

by Petra Paignton on October 13, 2010
Petra Paignton

Hi, Karen

You said: "People are usually punished far harder for telling a heinous truth than for telling a heinous lie."

What "truth" did Paul Henry tell?

Also, are you the Karen - that great defender of free speech and non-censorship over at Yahoo! - that got me banned for repeatedly responsing to your absurdities with my own "heinous truths"?


by Petra Paignton on October 13, 2010
Petra Paignton

Hi, Stuart

You said: "How can we move forward?"

I think that in many ways we have moved forward. I disappeared from NZ for almost 10 years, and upon my return, I was delighted with just how much we had moved forward. And I think that we are still moving forward, just not without speed bumps.


by stuart munro on October 13, 2010
stuart munro

@Petra - you may be right - I mostly read news, & it's mostly about our leaders, who seem to have lost their way - which tends to leave one more than a little cynical.

I guess we have folk like Danny Lee, and many ordinary and friendly migrants shifting the mean NZ prototype by example not invective. 

I worry though, about NZ culture - at it's best it seemed a shy thing, more common on the West Coast or Southland than in any city I ever lived in. It seemed to be generous, quirky, pragmatic, and not discreditable.

The shock jock thing is a deculturated version.

by DeepRed on October 13, 2010

Gack. Mangled formatting. Here we go again... [Hi Matthew. Thanks for reposting. I've deleted the 1st version, with the formatting problem: it said the same things. Ed.]

I think a number of factors are commonly overlooked:

* Australia & Canada had, and still have, active integration policies (as opposed to outright assimilationism) whereas NZ was largely in it for the money. Some baby steps were taken by the Clark Govt towards official multiculturalism, but things are still largely lax.

* NZ was late to the party, and in a sense we've had to 'pressure cook' our way to multi-culturalism. Australia & Canada have had the luxury of time for differing groups to bed in and settle their differences (then again, not so sure about Australia). Speaking as a 6th-generation Cantonese NZer, I'm fully integrated into NZ society, but through the passage of time, rather than official policy.

* Prejudices among ethnic groups are more prevalent among 1st-generationers, but less so among 1.5-ers and 2nd-generationers.

* Who here has heard of Chinese-Maori figures like Dion Hitchens, Jenny Lee and the Runga sisters?

If America is a melting pot, Canada a tossed salad and France a coffee whitener, what would NZ be? Somehow none of the above entirely fit.

by Karen on October 13, 2010

Petra, I've never posted on Yahoo. Never responded to you on any forum, as far as I know.  I rarely comment on anything political. I've better things to do.

Henry voiced the sullenly unspoken truth, too many believe anyone who doesn't sound like "a New Zealander" or match a racial appearance they believe an imagined "New Zealander", isn't a New Zealander, and can never be one.

No, *they* aren't racist. Real "New Zealanders" (TM) can't be racist.

"Yeah, right." ..

Where's my Tui?

by stuart munro on October 13, 2010
stuart munro

@ Karen,

The New Zealand view remains moderate by world standards - the famous Maineism "A cat can have kittens in the oven, but that don't make 'em biscuits." denies assimilation to first generations at least, and in Eastern Europe neither foreign nationals nor stateless persons were traditionally assimilated over time - which is why a small group of stateless persons exists to this day.

by Jonathan Hunt on October 13, 2010
Jonathan Hunt

Sanji, I sympathize that many reactions to the Henry saga do indicate that New Zealanders are not all as tolerant or multicultural as we'd like (for clarity: this statement is not at all sarcastic).

But your conclusions seem unwarranted from the data and even poorly thought out.

You may think NZ should apologise to India over Henry's "dikshit" comments. But surely you could understand that reasonable, non-racist people could disagree on this issue for reasons other than a hatred of Indians. I like living in a country where you can make fun of important figures [imagine a life without political cartoons] although others do it much better than Henry. I'm not sure the government should be in the business of apologizing for this (will the PM also apologize if TVNZ makes fun an opposition MPs name?). I'm not asking you to agree with my view, but surely you can see a non-racist approach to disagreeing with the whether the government should apologize [incidentally, I'm not sure the government should have apologized to the Chinese administration about Norman's protest and that's not because I hate Chinese]). To conclude that everyone who disagreed with the apology is racist seems unwarranted. Incidentally, you make much of India's growing importance in the world [which I don't disagree with at all]. I don't understand this. Are you saying racism is ok as long as it is directed at small, insignificant countries. We can make fun of people's names as long as they're not future trading partners? How is India's importance relavant to this situation? If the GG was of Sri Lankan descent would Henry's comments be acceptable?

I'm pretty comfortable with Henry's resignation from TVNZ. From the little I saw of him (outside the recent controversy) he was pretty dumb. His comments about the GG were completely out of line and stupid and hurt TVNZ's brand. But, again, I understand people that might not support Henry's statements but think that such views are better aired openly instead of hidden and martyred. These people form part of the 60% in your second poll, they are not necessarily racist bigots.

I think the GG is fantastic, it would be great to see him reappointed as a demonstration of how stupid Henry's sentiments are. I am sorry for the many prejudices various groups still face. But, please, lets have clear discussion and not overstate the case.

by Karen on October 13, 2010

Stuart, the Governor General was born in New Zealand.  Would he have looked more "like a "New Zealander" to Henry if his father had also been born Auckland?  No.

Whether some Kiwi attitudes are less racist than those in *selected* countries is irrelevant. You can't deny racism by suggesting others are worse.

by stuart munro on October 13, 2010
stuart munro

Karen, as important as it may be to your prejudices, it isn't how he looks that concerns me. There are two possible characteristics that I would look for in a GG, besides an appropriate degree of grace and maturity, which Anand Satyanand certainly possesses.

I would like either a degree of cultural resonance - by which I mean to recognise something of New Zealand in them, or I would like some conspicuous virtue. Preferably both. Of course, these have often not been present in our GGs, we have only recently thrown off the yoke of perfidious Albion after all.

There was at one time some talk of appointing Dame Te Atairangikaahu to the office permanently, and I think she would have met both requirements. I can think of a handful of New Zealanders that might be apt successors to Mr Satyanand - who I will not name. My first few preferences would all almost certainly decline the appointment.

by Karen on October 14, 2010

Stuart, whether you are unwilling to read for content or unable I won't speculate, it is clear you understand nothing I've written.  I shall not waste time with further replies to you.

by Petra Paignton on October 14, 2010
Petra Paignton

Ok, Karen. I'll take your word for it, and I apologise for the question. :)


Back to Henry -

You said: Henry voiced the sullenly unspoken truth, too many believe anyone who doesn't sound like "a New Zealander" or match a racial appearance they believe an imagined "New Zealander", isn't a New Zealander, and can never be one.


I doubt anyone really gave much thought to the GG before Henry stirred that one up. I doubt they knew what he looked like (and to me, he passes for quite Maori looking - it's his name that betrays an "alien other" heritage), or what his name is, or what he does in the role of GG. And Henry's questions to Key asked absolutely nothing about the man or his role, he just race baited. Had Henry asked about the relevance of a GG to New Zealand, how the current GG had performed, and what should NZ look for in a future GG, then all well and good. But no, he and his producer and Rick Ellis had to take the teabaggers route - a route imported from the USA, no less. Ugh.

Does racism exist in NZ? Of course it does. But I always believed the great majority of NZers were on the path to a new Enlightenment, and had been for some time. I still believe that, though that evolution may have slowed a bit - sadly for the convenience of television ratings. Presenters and other talking heads are encouraged to tap more and more into the viscera and the feeding of irrational fears and willful ignorance (the basis of all bigotry), and less and less into the brain; the rational mind. Strangely they believe they're doing it in the name of free speech.

It's funny, y'know: one of my best friends is a passionate Paul Henry supporter. And yet when discussing friends or family or workplace shenanigans, she often expresses her annoyance when people do or say things "inappropriate", and she will bellyache about the lack of respect for each other that's evidence today, and how there's not enough discipline or accountability. Yet she's a huge Henry supporter. Exasperating! (I still lover her - our friendship won't suffer over this, and I hope no real friendships out there do).

Gotta out of time. So much to talk about, so few minutes!


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