[LNH] The geo-politics of LNH Asia (was Re: REVIEWS: The Phippsian Reader)

Jessica Ihimaera-Smiler jaelle at ihug.co.nz
Mon Jun 6 20:16:15 PDT 2005

Jamas Enright wrote:

> On 6 Jun 2005 phippsmartin at hotmail.com wrote:
>>When Asians (or at least Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos and
>>Thais) say "foreigner" (actually "gaijin", "waigukjin", "weiren",
>>"foreigner" and "farang", respectively) they are actually talking about
>>Westerners and not each other.  How do I know this?
> Maori has something similar, namely "pakeha", which essentially just means
> "non-Maori" but is often taken as something more racist and specific to
> "white man". (If Jess is reading this, she might want to add more.)

Ohhhh... don't even make me get out the soap box on this one. The word 
"pakeha" (like practically every other word in the Maori language) has 
about eight different meanings, which range between "non-Maori", 
"stranger", and one or two extremely offensive terms which I won't 
repeat here. Every now and again some moron gets in the paper by 
claiming that one of the more offensive versions is the true version, 
thus kicking off another round in the endless "he called me a bad name" 
argument usually common to under-14-year-olds.

But that's irrelevant to the topic, so I will control my urge to rant 
and instead agree with Jamas in that, while "non-Maori" and 
"stranger/foreigner" are the two most predominant translations for the 
word, you're entirely correct in that somehow it has become the term for 
"white New Zealanders". (I'll go even further and say it is usually 
meant to refer to "New Zealanders of European descent", as I have yet to 
hear the word pakeha applied to North Americans.)

Samoans, Niueans, other Island groups and Asians are never referred to 
as pakeha. And many of the other Island cultures have their own words 
for others - for example the word "palagi", which is Samoan for 
"non-Samoan", but is again predominantly used for "white" people.

>>(Of course, Jamas, you may want to insist that Americans refer to you
>>as a "foreigner" because you are not American but they would probably
>>consider it a compliment.)
> Actually, I'll insist that American's refer to me a "Lord High Enright"...
> but that's another plan and I've said too much already... :)

I think most people would prefer to be called by the country of their 
origin, really. That certainly seems to be the case whenever ethnicity 
surveys are done in this country - particularly when the surveyors have 
given the options as a choice between a variety of ethnic groups and 
"New Zealand pakeha". The general argument these days is that a lot of 
people don't WANT to be called pakeha, and would prefer to identify 
themselves as "New Zealanders" (which is fair enough, IMO).

> I'm reminded on a story my friend told me of a time he was out with a
> bunch of hish friends, one of which was an African American, and they were
> all picking on him. He complained that this was because he was black,
> which was amusing given that, for example, my friend is Maori (=dark
> skin), and he was quickly corrected that they were picking on him because
> he was American. :)

Oddly enough, although Maori historically were referred to (and referred 
to themselves) as black, these days pretty much everyone has accepted 
that we're "brown". I've met an African who told me that Maori are not 
really black, because we're not dark enough.

Of course, it could just be that New Zealanders are weird when it comes 
to race. Take for example the fact that New Zealanders never include 
Indians when we refer to Asians. Asians are Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, 
Thai etc. Indians are their own separate ethnic group by themselves.

Then there's the whole issue of whether or not pakeha and palagi 
includes North Americans, which is the main reason why I didn't use 
Martin's term "Westerners". Probably it's because there aren't many 
North Americans down here, and most of our "white" population are of 
European descent. This is not to mention the varying definitions of "the 
Western world" (in which, according to Wikipedia, "Australia and New 
Zealand can be considered Westernized countries located in the East"). 
And now I'm getting geographically and politically confused so I shall 
stop that area of discussion.

>>My point?  It seems that Asians, as much as they may still hate each
>>other following the second world war, are already thinking of
>>themselves as countrymen, of a sort.
> Somewhat tangentally I've noticed that people are as geographically
> patriotic as they need to be to be against the other side (mostly in
> sport). If it's England vs. Austrlia, then we're all Oceanic here, but if
> it's NZ vs. Australia then stay on your side of the Tasman. (Which of
> course scales down to 'my town against your town' or even 'my work section
> against your work section'.)

*grins* As the saying goes: "I support two teams: New Zealand, and 
anyone playing Australia".

(The Britain vs Aussie scenario is always a bit awkward, however. I know 
some people who side one way, and some who side the other. The rest of 
us just reckon it's a lose-lose situation. :-)


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