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Cracks in the Footpath | Oct 15, 2005 11:25

If you're at all familiar with Wellington, the one thing you'll always recall is the high freak factor.

There's blanket man, who has a surprising number of mates to hang out with on Tory Street. Science guys, if you ever wanted to harvest the gene for 'hardy', go to that dude. Five minutes without a cardy in winter and I have the sniffles. Blanket man? What, five or six years flashing noodle from under that rug? He'll probably be the only one of us to survive the Bird Flu.

Then there's the old codger who plays air guitar and amplifies the sound of himself making up lyrics to almost completely unrecognisable hits. And the two pillows for the "busking" money. What, he makes that kind of racket and is afraid of the sound of coins hitting the ground?

Then there's Kenny, still trying to get his amplifier back so he can croon in Courtney Place. A little moustachioed dude who was just turning into a street kid when I lived here back in the early 90s, still out there, and Mad Marty, a idiot savant who apparently took too much LSD back in the 70s or 80s.

Actually, this guy is pretty interesting. I tried talking to him when he turned up to a party I was at in... 92? Anyhow, he can give you the square root of any number you name, and carries this book full of fractal drawings he's whipped up out of equations he's done.

So, so weird, but so, so cool. All I remember was trying to make sense out of what in the hell he would like to be able to say, if he hadn't fried his frontal lobe in Alice Springs or somewhere (obviously a wee Jesus fixation there, 40 days temptation and all that). He had these eyes that spoke intelligence, but somewhere in there two power points just weren't, quite, touching.

A couple of days ago I saw a new one. It was this woman, average height, but dressed entirely in camouflage. Camo hat, camo tunic, camo trousers, camo ammunition belt, the whole picnic hamper. Like an olive green and tan shadow slipping through Manners Street, blending effortlessly into the, well, grey.

And, it just wasn't really working for her as a fashion statement, you know what I mean? I'm not exactly Yves St Laurent myself here, but damn, what in the hell was she thinking?

And then it dawned on me, and how could I miss it.

Big arse.

Damn that thing was big. Big like two panda bears fighting under a lumpy duvet big.

Again. Camouflage not working.

On a less cruel note. The other hard case situation was heading out of Courtney Place and overhearing a conversation between this young guy, his mates, and two hapless women.

The guy had bumped one of them by accident, and she might have felt his jewellery. Big gold thing, sparkles, the whole nine yards. She turns, sees him, becomes instantly less pissed off, and asks, "What's that?"

He says, "It's my bling".

"Bling?" She says, "What's a bling?"

"Bling, baby! Bling! This ring's worth more than all that... that... Glassons shit you got on!"

Yup. Very bling.

We were livin' large on a No.1 Bus to Newtown.

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Metics Eight | Oct 12, 2005 21:27

The curious thing about belonging to a place is the way in which it grants everybody a different amount of political power.

In the last Metics, we talked about this idea of 'governmental belonging'. This idea revolves around the notion that even though you might feel like you belong to a country, something intangible can prevent you from ever having your political opinions even listened to, let along be listened to.

There's a difference between 'homely belonging', being at home somewhere, and this 'governmental belonging'.

To illustrate, here's a brief example from Australia.

Pauline Hanson, to any outside observer, is consummately Australian. She has the accent, the attitude, and the audience. When Hanson started her political career, there were a lot of people to whom her opinions spoke, and of course the rest is history.

But interestingly, there was another group of people, also of Australian pedigree, who stated very loudly that Hanson did not speak for them. From the perspective of this blog, they were actively denying Hanson any governmental belonging. Which is difficult to understand, because Hanson is soooo obviously Australian (although that's not to suggest that her views are indicative of Australian-ness).

There are plenty of examples of this type of behaviour among members of any nation. People routinely deny each other political legitimacy, it's normal behaviour. A little petty, but routine.

But if you accept that this behaviour is normal, then you might want to ask what purpose it serves. Why deny someone political legitimacy, while concurrently accepting their claim to nationality?

To make a long story short, there are fairly strong arguments that establishing this type of contrast is useful for building a little fence around those who 'naturally' govern, and those who do not. Hanson was an upstart, or was commonly seen as one. Someone well-spoken and of good heritage, such as Alexander Downer Junior, is not.

The difference between homely and governmental belonging runs deeper than snobbery though. For starters, it runs contrary to immigrants participating in governance, even if they possess impeccable breeding and a spanking good education. This is of course what I was driving at in Metics Seven.

The fascinating thing about governmental belonging it that it contains a good set of markers of what an 'authentic' national is like. So, if you'd like to understand at least some (but never all) of the essence of what it is to be a New Zealander, then it's a good idea to start by taking a look at what at who it's representatives are.

There's the chance of course that a critic of this idea could say 'oh, you mean representative politics'. But that's not entirely what I'm driving at. Members of Parliament wouldn't be there if they were culturally alien, that's a given. And the aim to have as broad a cross-section of the population in parliament is in everyone's interests.

But the fact that some MPs are mostly identified by their difference is once again fairly telling of who is, and who is not, governing 'naturally'. The label 'Asian MP' for example. In this example 'Asian' quite obviously means 'abnormal'. Being Asian is enough to make that persons term in government as out of the ordinary.

Now, I'm not raising this point because of a desire to root out non-PC speech, or to twist the ears of anyone who draws distinctions out of someone being 'Asian'. The point is more that using this label reminds us that 'Asian' is not (yet) a normal category of New Zealander.

And that's very interesting for the study of nationality, because it shows us that a nation has at least one more ingredient that 'population'. Or to put it another way, 'nationality' does not automatically equal either citizenship or residence in country. It can, but this isn't a given.

What complicates this situation even more is that although some people are unable to secure enough belonging to allow them to govern, they nonetheless participate as citizens.

Tricky. Very tricky.

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