On The Intentional Circus Of The Mistress.


I tried not to say anything about the Bevan Chuang circus for a long time. People have affairs, even politicians and wannabes; affairs are made public and opponents make political gain, or not. Life goes on.

But not when the wannabe is Bevan Chuang. Every time she has opened her mouth after she first revealed all on Whale Oil, she has dumped a load of excreta on the public. First it was pictures without makeup, looking sad, saying things to Lincoln Tan, appealing to his lazy journalism (more on that later), then this interview for Metro, being the Asian princess-concubine, another interview for Radio Live declaring her intentions to save us ethnics from our political apathy. I ignored it all. Why give more publicity when middle aged white men (and a Singaporean) are working for the cause?

The final straw on my ‘apathetic ethnic back’ was Bevan’s intention to re-apply for Auckland Council’s ethnic advisory panel. I am Asian, a woman and very engaged with democracy and politics. Do I need a Bevan Chuang to represent me? Even though I do not live in Auckland any more, the idea of her being on the panel and using it to get on a national platform, with drooling white men pandering, desiring, their pants about to burst yet they dare not, is repulsive.

There is nothing wrong in being ambitious, there is nothing wrong in being sexual but when that becomes the only tool for social/political climbing, making claims to represent ethnic communities, then it is time to say enough.

Did she do anything for the ethnic communities while she was on the panel? Nothing. I challenge Camille Nakhid and Bevan herself to show concrete proof of the work she did. Apart from posting on Facebook, tweeting, sending out group emails, helping organise a few events and floating around flirtatiously there is zilch to show. I once questioned Bevan for attending a conference organised by Hindu fundamentalists and she had no clue what that was. How can anyone claiming to represent migrants show such ignorance? Would one not do due diligence about the event, who these people are, what the community is up to etc? How is she going to lobby for the ethnic communities on a local level and what is she going to say? L’affaire Brown might have proved her political naivety and lack of nous to the mainstream but us ethnics have known that for a long time. We just don’t say it. Only Renee Liang wrote about the story but she extrapolated it to an imagined experience rather than discuss ethnic representation which was/is the main issue. If Bevan was not on the ethnic advisory board and still had this affair, no one would care.

Auckland Council has called for applications from potential panellists. These panels have a two-point vague agenda about advising the council. Applicants need to have governance experience but is there a constitution for these panels? An outline? What happens if the council has to get rid of a panellist? What if someone passes or has to leave? Is there a strategy for such exits and reappointments? Will the minutes of these meetings be published for the communities to know what their representative panel is up to? It is time to make the process transparent. Let us know who applied, put up their resumes online, who is on the selection panel, and how the panellists fulfil the selection criteria. Surely that is an appropriate demand from an ignorant ethnic? And it will cost less than $250,000 ja?

Bevan would fail the criteria. Broad perspective, critical and strategic thinking, judgement, politics… Yet, she wants to apply. She is scared Len will reject her but she not scared of what the ethnic communities think of her ability to represent! It is not just the conservative elements that question this.

Lazy journalist that Lincoln Tan is, his ‘news’ article in the Herald subtly pushes Bevan to the public and has Camille Nakhid endorsing her. Did he ask the other panellists what they think? Asoka Basnayake was their media spokesperson, did he get a statement from her? When did he last do a balanced piece, especially related to Bevan? From the story about the dragon baby to trying to generate sympathy for a makeup less Bevan, this is a mutually useful relationship that does disservice to the ethnic communities. Not that the ethnics trust him you know, with so many stories bordering on sensationalism and always quoting either Paul Spoonley or Bevan Chuang. (Go do a general analysis of his work.)

It is time for the ethnic communities to speak up. It is time for the Chinese community to say whether they really want Bevan representing them (because who else can she purport to represent?). There are other young, worthy Chinese Aucklanders who will actually do the job and do it very well.

The Other Wellington Report.


In response to The Wellington Report by The Dominion Post. Because the voice of the ‘other’ is missing so how can it be a balanced report? See for yourself. All Pakeha faces and voices. No tangata whenua (Maori), no Pacific, no Chinese/Indian/Middle Eastern/other ethnic migrants or refugees. Not even international students. When Wellington and the surrounding region has three universities whose business is dependent on all those foreigners paying high fees.

So what does one make of this exclusion? That The Dom Post is racist? Or that the editor has no imagination?

Now I can be labelled Just Another F$%^%ng Auckland, JAFA come lately on the hills of this little capital. Fair enough. I lived in Auckland for eleven years so I am attached to that place but I am also a wanderer. Life brought me to Wellington and ten years from now I might be Berlin or Hong Kong, my favourite cities. I cannot predict. The only thing I’ve learnt is that wherever I live I must take ownership of that place, to immerse myself in it, to participate, to give rather than take. So I am.

The Dummy’s analysis of The (One-Sided/Racist/Unimaginative) Wellington Report.

The no-brainers:

  • That Wellington airport needs a longer runway to bring in international flights
  • That the region needs to be unified to make better economic sense
  • That we need to be attractive to businesses and the creative sector.

(Note: Pakeha businesses from the Western world and creatives only from Hollywood or from Asia too? Guess who has the money? ;-))

  • That Wellington and region should not be dependent only on government.
  • That we need better infrastructure in terms of motorways and digital connectivity.
  • That all the above will attract jobs to the city and rejuvenate it.
  • The above will also attract tourists and make it the coolest little capital again.

D-uh. A Somali from Newtown could’ve told you that (but the editor didn’t think of asking perhaps).

Waste of space 1:

  • Jo Coughlan talks about her daughter not finding a seat in any restaurant on the Queen’s Birthday holiday. That is how buzzing Wellington is.

Question: Did the daughter just go to Courtenay Place/Cuba Mall (because that is her idea of Wellington)? If there were more restaurants in buzzing suburbs then she might have found a seat? And she did not think of going to Jackson St, Petone? Too downmarket and working class? Oh but that is not Wellington. My bad.

One more question: Why does Kelburn, the centre of Victoria University, not have more student based commerce such as cheap eating places, bubble tea and karaoke bars?

The  Top Cuisine Food Bar in Marsden Village, Karori, makes a mean black bean chicken. Why does he not open a yum cha place, I asked him. Too dead he says. Maybe instead of always having to go into town to eat at a restaurant, people could detour to a suburb if they had a choice? East Asian students from Kelburn could pop over too?

Waste of space 2:

In her column about Wellington, Rosemary McLeod spoke only about botoxed Auckland women and the ugly houses on Paritai Drive.

D-U-D-E, even Aucklanders don’t care about botoxed women and the houses on Paritai Drive. There is so much else going on.

Big, big chip on the shoulder and existing in a really, really small world. She does eh?

Besides, comparing Oriental Bay with ‘any Auckland beach’ is an even bigger waste of precious space. It is like arguing with geography. Each place has its own charm.

Conclusion: Some Wellingtonians need to get a life and many have a fixation with Auckland. All the other important types The Dom Post featured are afraid of the coloured people coming in their precious city even though they know that the empire is gone.

‘Other’ ideas:

A city is made up of people; is because of the people. If a large part of the local population is excluded from any discourse about its identity and future, then how would people have a sense of belonging? How will they contribute, why should they contribute? Wellingtonians, as constructed by The Dom Post, are rich, white, hip, caffeine consuming politicians, creatives or businesspeople who live in their own little world; whose concept of existence comes from the West. As if detached from global realities and from the local requirements of the hoi polloi. They only talk to themselves about themselves.

New Zealand as a whole needs migrants and skilled labour. Wellington does too if dependence on government employment has to be minimised. With this new population will come commerce, diversity, new ideas and a new buzz because this new population will not be from England. Those days are gone and the days when migrant labour was imported, only to set them up in ghettos before Dawn Raids.  This new population will be global, of those travelling where there is work; of transnational people who might choose to stay if they like the life, if they have the diversity and variety. That is the discourse to be had. But if The Dom Post does not see this new citizen of the city, only whiteness, then those in there are merely meditating on their umbilicals. In a fear-of-change fashion.

Wellington is sister city to Beijing. Not a single word about how that relationship can be enhanced. (Gawd, more Asians! What does one talk about to these Orientals? Not cricket eh old chap?)

If we were sister city to L.A. might the report be orgasmic about it then?

Wellington can learn a lot from my two favourite cities-Berlin and Hong Kong. One with a small land mass and fear of damage from cyclones and tornadoes. Yet HK is defiantly democratic with the speediest internest in the world, a strong economy, big film industry and vibrant expatriate community that only adds to the madness and buzz. It is also a tourist destination. A walk through Kowloon at any time will prove that. Berlin, flat and wide, with a history of devastation through war and political division yet rebuilt again and again. Bergmanstrasse, Kreuzberg, Freidrichshain…how many buzzing suburbs, a strong heritage and culture, amazing architecture, migrants ranging from North Africa to Turkey, Vietnam and Korea that add to the vibe. Plus lots of introspection about Germany’s history.

Why? Because both cities welcome people from all over the world.

Wellington does not have to look at Auckland but at the people who live here, the coloured other, the tangata whenua. They are not going to go away by ignoring them as The Racist Wellington Report does. Because they are the people of this city, the present and the future. They will stand up and be visible. One day. Soon. That is The Other Wellington Report.

Three Months And A Wellingtonian Yet?


The jury is still out. It is too early to tell. But I am trying. Last month I visited Auckland for a weekend. As the Airbus rumbled along Dominion Rd I noticed the new shops that had sprung up. An entire road the size of Lambton Quay, Courtenay Place, Cuba Mall, other bits of central Wellington put together. Buzzing and vibrant. DIVERSE. Then I told myself I should not complain, I should try.

Wellington is picturesque. Every day I drive to and from Porirua to Karori along the water and last week when it hailed on us, the snow streaked hills lining the harbour made for a stunning sight. I almost crashed my car stealing glances at the lovely view. Umm. That’s about it. Nah. 🙂

I got my first parking ticket in the last week of April. Signs of settling in, I think. Still to find the mythical free car park but I have an infringement notice.

Meanwhile I continue to battle the low water pressure. You see, the shower rose goes through the cold water first before it can deliver any water that is warm.  See this contraption?

That is the two tap pipe that brings water from the cold tap and hot tap through a single pipe into my bucket so I can have a decent bucket bath. Selling like hot cakes in the low pressure plumbing world of Wellington. My landlady’s plumber told her there is no hot water problem when I complained. He, I assume, who can live without his clothes in Alpine conditions, shrivelled body parts and potentially damaged lungs. So I have third world problems in a first world country. Bucket baths in a bathtub not built for that purpose. This contraption cannot be used as a shower because guess what happens when the pipe is lifted above the level of the taps? Physics, my dear Watson. The shower is now part of my imagination.

Aren’t we migrants lucky to be hardy? And then we stand up to make noise and complain. 😀 She ain’t gonna be right ‘coz she need fixing.

A friend once said to me that the pioneers who came from ye olde England/Scotland/remnants of the British Raj always wanted to go ‘back home’ so they built cold, damp houses here which constantly reminded them that it was temporary.

Think. Any new settlers would learn from the natives about habitation that suits the local climate. Warm and dry in the winter, relatively airy in the summer. Instead it was all about civilising the barbarians and imitating buildings from ‘home’. Then all got asthma and/or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, suffering from their ill abodes. Which bright spark would build a low pressure water system across the hills of Wellington? Hence I wash my thick, long hair from a bucket.

But like I said at the top, no more complaining. It is important to try and my philosophy in life has been to take charge of things so I can make the change. If I believe Wellington needs to be more than four streets and the five hipsters who work at start ups or in the creative industry, if this city needs more diversity, more migrants, more commerce, a united region, an international airport out beyond Whitby or those parts and outspoken leaders; new blood, not the fuddy-duddy, marbles-in-the-mouth Pakeha minority with a blinkered world view then I am going to work on it. So next week I am meeting Jack Yan‘s team to see how I can help him for the Wellington mayoral elections.

Considering that I might be living here for the next few years and might become a Wellingtonian yet.

By the way, Wellington does have a wonderful public transport system. Except that the last bus leaves the airport at 8.30pm.

My Urban Gardening #6 or so.

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The Easter weekend gardening, getting it ready for winter is a New Zealand tradition but I have never actually done any planting during the long weekend before, my usual procrastination gripping me until mid-autumn. Not this weekend, not today. Having a backyard in my new place is a boon and I wanted to take full advantage of that. So I went to the plant shop and bought the garden 😉 Nah.

The Wellington weather is radically different from Auckland’s relative warmth. This city is windy, cold and damp. That means the flora varies too. The winter frost means nothing edible will grow above the ground. Except greens like spinach, silverbeet, salad leaves etc and all sorts of roots. Also, this year’s drought has stopped the good citizens of Wellington from watering their gardens to make up for the dry summer. One has to be innovative in reusing water.

I love gardening. It is like meditation. I talk to my plants. And to grow my own food is such a basic activity, I bond with Mother Earth and this land of which I am made, of which we all are. So there I was, planting and replanting my preciouses.

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I ran out of soil so could not plant the baby carrot seeds but I covered my tulsi with dried leaves so the moisture stays in and she needs less water. Also plan to make mulch from the dried leaves in the yard and pondering whether to get a mini earthworm farm or a compost suitable for urban gardening.

First Week Of A New Life.


One week in a new city and I am finding my way around. Of course now I know the way to work, the short cuts to avoid steep roads and long waits at the lights on the morning commute to the motorway. It takes me between 20-25 minutes to get to work even with the minor jams on Tinakori Road. To an ex-Aucklander that is the time I would take to go from one end of the Ponsonby Road to the other at 40K during the morning peak traffic hours whether by car or on the Link Bus. This drive to Porirua is a piece of cake. So that is sorted.

After a week of unpacking and starting work it was time to go into the city and hang around, understand the bus routes and browse the shops. Wellington has some quirky fashion stores ranging from designer clothes to second hand, recycled, hand made everything. Wellingtonians dress more laid back than Aucklanders but what was obviously missing was the Asian influence. None of the kawaii, or the East Asian style Western clothes that Gwen Stefani tries so hard to copy for her fashion line Harajuku Lovers. Not even the East Asians on Cuba St. had that look. I guess I’d have to travel regularly to Auckland to get my fill.

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But what one needs when settling in a new town is the Asian grocery stores. Where do I get my rice, my papads, the pickles, the savouries, the lentils? Will they be the same as in Auckland? Will I find packets of instant dosa and dhokla mix? Oh and where do I get my eyebrows threaded? Definitely not in the gora peoples’ beauty salons! Not at $20 a pop; not when I can get them done for $10 max.

Wellington is not as diverse as Auckland and I am probably going to have to travel further from home to get Asian groceries or my eyebrows trimmed. I do not even have any Indian female friends in Wellington and no point asking the guys. So it is going to be the trial and error technique. More grist for a blob post I suppose.

Arise Goddess Kali


I was going to write an end-of-the-year rant about my pet peeves within my smug little existence, trying to detach myself from the rape-protest drama in Delhi. Horrible, brutal crime, I told myself but I now live in New Zealand so should not be worried with what happens back home. I am safe here, I can wear what I like, do what I want, go out at any time of the night. I live alone, am independent, no one judges me. Sweet as. I was wrong. So, so wrong. This innocent young girl’s death has made me angry. Mad, stomping angry.

The last time I went to India, in 2010, men stared at my breasts as I walked the streets. Fully clothed in my khadi salwar-kurtas, not making eye contact with any unknown males, I used to go about  my work with men still coming up right in front of me, their eyes on my breasts. Then there was the time when a male bus passenger rubbed his penis against my shoulder as I sat in a crowded bus. He went on even as I slouched further into my seat contemplating whether to yell at him and make some noise or just let it go. That was my default setting. Like so many Indian women who grow up in India. Make yourself as inconspicuous as possible and even if you have to protest, think about it first because everyone, even other women, will turn around and tell you it is your fault. I mustered all my courage to yell at him and while he backed off slightly he yelled at me to ask what he had done. The implication being that I was just a mad woman to shout at him to stand straight and not lean against me; it is a crowded bus. How could I have asked him to keep his penis to himself and not on my shoulder? Is there a Hindi or Marathi word that a decent woman can use in public to describe the organ? If I’d spoken in English then I would have immediately been ‘modern’, further implying deterioration of my morality. Now I am in New Zealand. No catcalls from Indian men gathered at the end of each street, no one rubbing against me, groping me or staring at my breasts. In reset mode. Procrastinating any reaction to a young, innocent girl brutally raped, keeping it out my mindspace. Then she died. A life full of hope snuffed out. So I got mad, stomping angry. Mostly at myself. Somewhere in the comfort of reset mode compassion and empathy for my sisters was deleted. Besides, my intellectual snobbery stopped me from engaging in any discourse against the death sentence and stoning that the many Indians were calling out for. But now I want to plunge into it.

So I’ll start by arguing against the death sentence and stoning that so many Indians are demanding for the rapists. Stop; think. Did these six men just drop from the sky or are they a part of the Indian society? Where did they get their attitude towards women and violence? Or the idea that they could get away with such a brutal crime; that the police might not do anything? Indian governments of all ideologies have sanctioned rape in the name of suppressing rebellion and uprisings. When did middle class India last check the human rights record of the Indian Army against Kashmiri and North-Eastern women? Or the police raping tribal women in the Red Corridor? Or was it okay to use rape as a weapon for the safety of the rest of the Indians? The Culture Of Impunity and disrespect for women is not an aberration but ‘normal’ behaviour. So who deserves the death sentence? Indian soldiers? Indian police? Fathers that rape their daughters? Husbands that rape their wives? Brothers that rape their sisters? Politicians? Or we the people? For turning a blind eye?

Now let’s look at the prominent women who reacted to the rape.

Stoic Sonia-ji remained silent as per usual. Only to come make an appearance on television reading from the teleprompter.  Fake much?

Then there was Sushma-ji. The keeper of the virtue of us Hindu women said if the girl survives then she will be like the living dead. Not, (read subtext if you can through her boring lecture) because she had lost her intestines but because she was raped and would have no honour left.  Sushma-ji may I remind you that once upon a time you wanted all advertisements for sanitary napkins removed from television because they were a bad influence on us innocent Indian women. Perhaps we should have stayed at home five days a month and continued using old sarees to soak up our menstrual discharge? This way we would have been safer ya?

And finally Jaya-ji. The distress is genuine but to believe that because we worship so many goddesses Indian men actually respect women in real life?  Oh Jaya-ji, you are so naive. Only in our Bollywood films and only after we’ve had an item number in skimpy clothes and the man has tamed her and ‘saved her’ will the heroine find redemption in treating him like god. Only then will he respect her in return.

Overall the larger issue of the treatment of women remained unaddressed. What is it that makes Indian society treat Indian women shabbily? Here is one explanation. This is the story not just of one child who died after rape but many more who die before they are born, many who suffer because of insufficient dowry, domestic abuse, sexual abuse and abuse from institutions that are meant to protect them. Women like us and those not like us. This is the story of everyone’s attitude towards women as victims of sexual assault. Lawyer Flavia Agnes tells among other tales how the doctors examining a rape victim in Bangalore were more interested in the elasticity of her vagina than finding forensic evidence.

As India moves towards more economic liberalisation, with good or bad effect, society is bound to change and with that the Indian democracy. Which means we have to let go of the old absolutes of culture, tradition and religion that kept us rigid and inflexible; not reject them but adapt them.

For that to happen there has to be a revolution with a new leader. Not Narendra Modi, not Rahul Gandhi, not Anna Hazare, not Arvind Kejriwal and not Kiran Bedi. Not any of the right or left wing politicians but the people. The people will throw up their new leader. Before that will arise Kali, once again from the people, the power of the people, especially of the women. Because it is the women who will destroy the men who worship her then rape her before giving birth to him and nurturing him again.

Queering The Superficial Multiculturalism Of Aotearoa New Zealand.


Last week the New Zealand Parliament passed a landmark bill paving way for a law enabling marriage between homosexuals. Yay! For all the problematic issues within NZ society this bill is forward looking and seeking to create equality for all. Irrespective of colour, religion and ethnicity. The bill was passed 80-40. It could have been a larger majority if all the Asian MPs had voted for it. Yes, it was a conscience vote and without directive from the parties so ideally it should not matter how the Asia MPs voted. They did what they thought was right. Or was it?

The New Zealand Parliament has five Asian members. Raymond Huo and Rajen Prasad from Labour and Melissa Lee, Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi and Jian Yang from National. All list MPs that the Mixed Member Proportional system allows.

All list MPsWithout mandate from any constituency except as imagined by party bosses and projected by the above faithful.

And the imagined constituents are us ethnics.

Now I don’t know the exact process of how Asians get on that coveted list but anecdote is that they are thus placed depending upon their ability to bring together high numbers of ethnics to meet and greet with their party honchos. All very democratic.

So, how did they vote? Melissa, Kanwaljit and Jian all voted against the bill, Rajen Prasad voted for it and Raymond Huo abstained. I emailed all to ask why they did what they did. Melissa and Jian have not bothered to respond. Kanwaljit replied ” I made my position clear publically before the vote in Parliament through social media, noting that I did not support the bill and will be voting against it.” I asked him to share with me his supposedly very public views and whether they were on Twitter or his Facebook page, he did not respond. For all my own research I could not find any opinion by this honourable in the public domain. HEARSAY: Apparently this discussion was had on a private forum for the Sikh community where Kanwaljit insisted that the Guru Granth Sahib forbids same sex relations/marriage but could not produce the exact reference when asked by other members.   

Raymond emailed back “Both sides (those who are for or against) had lobbied me, with each presenting what appeared to be a convincing case. However, I was told that the majority of Kiwi Asians would have been opposed to the Bill. The vote on the Bill’s first reading took place before the consultation could be completed. So abstention (not to vote) was the most appropriate option.” So if there is going to be consultation process may I suggest a very publicly reported discourse that is conducted in English to let ‘all Asians’ participate and not just the Chinese who air their views on Skykiwi and Mandarin talkback radio? Otherwise that goes against the idea of multiculturalism right? To expect mainstream discourse to be translated into ethnic languages but not take ethnic issues into the mainstream domain? It is a two way street after all. Everyone has a right to know why Raymond’s constituents are for or against gay marriage. If there are death threats and violence then that is a problem in itself and we need to know why. This cannot be kept  only in the confines of the Chinese community.
Rajen Prasad replied ” (a). I see it as a question of human rights that, as a former Hunan Rights Commissioner for New Zealand, I am required to uphold. (b). This Bill takes no rights away from any individual and does not change the status of any marriage or relationship that already exists. (c). This Bill is not an opportunity to re-litigate the status of gay relationships. New Zealand made that law change in 1986,” Thanks for that.

I also asked them what they thought their role was in Parliament irrespective of ideology. Raymond said “Given the representative nature of MMP – although list MPs – I believe we are, to some extent, still held answerable to the constituency.” Kanwaljit’s reply, “… to ensure that the growing ethnic population in New Zealand enjoys the same rights and privileges offered to all New Zealanders. We support these communities to settle well, and we work with them to ensure that their best interests are represented in Parliament. I believe that as an elected Member of Parliament it is my duty to represent the view of my greater constituency in conscience votes.” COMMENT: First of all he is not an elected member of Parliament, secondly don’t gay Asians have the same right as all New Zealanders and thirdly how do you quantify the view of the greater constituency? Is this based on numbers or opinion? Rajen Prasad replied, “First, the role of an Asian MP is the same as any MP in Parliament, i.e. to make laws for all New Zealanders that are fair, just, and workable. Secondly, it is to advocate for individual citizens and groups of citizens on issues that they have not been able to resolve through the usual channels. You ask me to state my views on my role “irrespective of ideology”. I wonder if that is ever possible. We are members of our political Parties and have signed up to uphold the values and principles of our Parties. All the votes we cast in Parliament and the public positions we take are our Parties’ positions. We shape them off course but we do that over time and through the policy processes of the Party.”

Pretty blah eh? Is that why we haven’t seen a single Asian MP make any articulate, coherent statement in the house? The one time Melissa Lee spoke she made a complete boo-boo and I have mentioned Rajen Prasad’s wanna-be-Obama turn before the 2008 elections. Still waiting for that open dialogue about ‘Indian culture’ rather than celebrations or promoting Hindutva. Just voting for gay marriage is not enough.

I can give three reasons why there are Asian MPs. 1) Asian members add colour and exoticism to the New Zealand parliament. 2) Political parties use them to make ignorant ethnic masses feel good about representation. Asian migrants don’t actively engage with civil society or with the politics of the country but to see people like them in parliament makes them happy. 3) They showcase the successful diasporic peoples of India, China, South Korea and Fiji (?!), so the pathway to Free Trade Deals become smoother. Pardon the cynicism.

When there is a minority representative in the house, who does this person represent? The dominant, patriarchal elite within the minorities OR the ‘fringe dwellers’ as well? When you are a coloured migrant and you have to fight your way, every single day, then you know what discrimination is but you don’t try to wipe out that bigotry within your community because for the outside world (Pakeha and Maori) it does not matter. The Asian community by and large denies the existence of ‘queers’ (as one Indian-pillar-of-the-community called them) because they muddy the waters of our model minority. But they do exist. You don’t know them because they have have not told you, because they don’t trust you enough.

Do any of the Asian MPs think of this unfairness within? The religious, patriarchal Asian elements are happy to talk about the racism by mainstream New Zealand, they lobby the Asian MPs for the same and for individual issues yet will not acknowledge that they too have the fear and hatred of the ‘other’, those that are ‘different’.

Homosexuals within the Asian communities are the minority within the minorities. Have a conversation with any Asian gay man and he will tell you of the discrimination. By gay white men and by the Asian communities. Ask an Asian lesbian and she will repeat the stories of discrimination. By white lesbians and by the Asian communities; of agendas driven by white feminists that crush ideas of culture and religion and any ‘other’. Now the Asian gay and lesbian community can tell one more story. Of discrimination by their own representatives in Parliament. (This is their blog.)

How can the ‘mainstream’ in the Asian communities talk about injustice, intolerance and prejudice by Pakeha New Zealand on one hand, demand representation and visibility (for a certain kind of Asian) while at the same time deny legitimacy to the various strata within? Multiculturalism but of a homogeneous sort for the consumption of non-ethnic New Zealand. The zealots practice their hatred in safe spaces, in their language. Inside the communities, away from the eye of the world. So are any Asian MPs leading to explore and represent that complexity to mainstream New Zealand? Wouldn’t that be fair, equal and just? Human rights for all? How the Asian MPs voted for this bill speaks more about their ability to engage with the wider Asian community and their processes rather than just conscience voting. Why not bring the democratic process to the communities and encourage them to engage cross-culturally? Why hobnob only with community elite who lobby to maintain old hierarchies and power structures? Last year I interviewed Phil Goff and asked him whether he thought multiculturalism was ‘so twentieth century’ and his reply, where he says that ethnic people have a right to keep their language and their culture, shows to me, the archaic, superficial concept of multiculturalism that is practised in New Zealand today. There is a difference between cultural maintenance and multiculturalism. I have written about it here, continued here and also here.

Ethnic minorities are not about food, festivals and exotic dress to be showcased annually. Neither are they just about contributing to the economy. Legislation and laws affect them too. So does Te Tiriti O Waitangi, so do asset sales, mining, fracking, failed breast cancer screening programmes, subsidised medicines, university fees…gay marriage…they don’t live in silos and should not be encouraged to either. And practising their culture does not mean they can self-govern their communities without acknowledging, addressing and resolving conflicts within. Otherwise the Indian caste system could be perpetuated here couldn’t it? (BTW it is-because the current form of multiculturalism allows it to.)

So Asian MPs can no longer get away with talking to ethnic media or in the inner circles of their communities. It is time for an Asian MP Watch. It is time for intelligent, articulate leaders who care about the whole community and can make coherent discourse to the entire country. Not just look pretty or be arrogant.

*I have copy-pasted the replies without changing any typos or other spelling/grammatical errors.

Bring On The Dragon!

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Another Lantern Festival comes and goes and New Zealand celebrates Chinese culture in this wonderfully multicultural land. Aren’t we lucky? Just the week before New Zealanders were having a collective seizure over selling the Crafar farms to the Chinese. All is now forgiven in the bonhomie of dragon lanterns and dumplings.

Just the week before, the Labour Party, that party which loves and propagates the presence of ethnics in Aotearoa and vigorously defends our rights for cultural maintenance, suddenly wanted the Crafar Farms to be kept in New Zealand ownership.  Then there is the National Party. Prime Minister John Key has said and reiterated that New Zealand will be welcoming more investment from the Chinese. At the same time converting TVNZ7, a truly public television channel, into a shopping channel. Money and investment from the Chinese is desired but that economic benefit does not translate into equity of representation for the ethnic minorities locally, for the rest of the country to know and understand their stories and cultures and to overcome racist attitudes. The hypocrisy on both sides is obvious, their lip service to multiculturalism. You wonder where the xenophobia comes from? Is the fear of foreign (non-white) investment connected or not connected to how ethnic minorities are perceived and treated in Aotearoa New Zealand?

But then we have events like the Lantern Festival (and Diwali) to give us that connection don’t we? That annual gathering, mixing and mingling of mostly local Chinese and mostly mainstream (white/Pakeha) where everyone sees each other, feels good, eats Chinese food, sings karaoke, watches the fireworks, checks out the imported lanterns and goes home. Until next year. If the aim of such an event is to bring in a zillion footfalls and therein be successful then that is fine. Any B grade movie aimed at the lowest common denominator does just that. It is called mindless entertainment.

Imagine this:  Within the interiors of a HR department:

Two Pakeha read the top page of resumes and throw them in a rubbish bin.

PERSON A :Wong, Leung, Kwok, Kwon, Yik … no, no, no.

PERSON B : Oh you’ve got Asians in your pile too?

PERSON A : Yeah, seriously…no speak Engrrish … I don’t even bother to read through. PERSON B : I know! I just wish someone worthy applied, makes things easy you know … so what did you do over the weekend?

PERSON A: We went to the Lantern Festival. It was so good. I ate so many dumplings and the lanterns they were amazing.

PERSON B : Weren’t they just? I look forward to the Lantern Festival every year. It is so much fun.

PERSON A : My family just love Chinese food. We go to yum char once a month for sure. PERSON B : I love yum char! Which is your favourite yum char place?                                                                                                                     FADE OUT.*

Does multiculturalism, as implemented by governments and related organisations, break barriers via events like the Lantern Festival (and Diwali) or perpetuate the other-isation, exotic-isation and ghetto-isation of ethnic minorities? I would argue that in the larger, multicultural context of this nation, an event like the Lantern Festival is aimless. Like giving popcorn and fizzy drinks to malnourished children so as to feed them but it is not the correct food is it?. Do we learn about Chinese people and Chinese culture at the end of it all? Do we know about their (and by extension other ethnic minorities) contribution to Aotearoa New Zealand?

How many of these visitors are going come away with more knowledge of the local Chinese?

Just another photo op.

Andrew Butcher of the Asia:NZ Foundation says that ”The immediate stuff in our neighbourhood I think that requires a wee bit more work and a wee bit more adjustment.” (In this article on overseas investment figures.) How much is ‘a wee bit more’? Theoretically, if the festivals organised by the Asia:NZ Foundation were meant to change perceptions about Asians, then, in the last ten years since these events began, New Zealanders would want to know about the dumpling-maker rather than just eat the dumplings ya? Unless of course the idea is to exhibit ethnic minorities as anthropological specimens on an annual basis and feel good about how diverse we are.

So, a wee bit more is actually work on a daily basis with everyday cultural existence and behaviour that is normalised and integrated. Not merely teaching Asia in schools or commissioning research that the media reports and forgets. A wee bit more is about the chaos at grassroots level that grows into a movement for sustained, constant visibility and finally acceptance. A wee bit more is empowering minorities and expanding their thinking not just engaging with community leaders and community elites.

Should white people be in charge of showcasing the ethnic minorities of New Zealand? Or teaching Asians about guanxi and how to be Asian or telling young Asians to go on their OE to Asia?  Asia:NZ is white people. (Pardon the English.) Perhaps it is about maintaining colonial, hierarchical power structures to keep ethnics in their place. Is there a wee bit where the ethnics get a say in their representation (minus the dumplings and Bollywood dancing)?

Let us suppose that these festivals are ‘soft power’ projected by New Zealand and packaged with economic incentives for China/India/Asian countries. To attract and persuade them that we are a multicultural nation and we take care of our ethnic minorities. (Look! We celebrate their festivals!) That’s great. We need more trade so why not. Then (a) why fake the concern for the communities and their culture? and (b) if the love for the local ethnics is genuine, is any of that money coming in be going to used to towards creating a robust, egalitarian society that is less racist and not so xenophobic?

Also, for the sake of argument, one can say these festivals are better than nothing. At least we ethnics get a chance to gather and show our culture. Sure. Does that mean (a) we shouldn’t try to improve upon the concept and (b) not question how, our representation, as shaped by white people, remains shallow and superficial? Or how their idea of multiculturalism is about reducing inherent complexities and preserve white supremacy? Where real, existential issues of ethnic minorities are overlooked in the name of cultural maintenance, where the elites from ethnic communities are deemed cultural representatives, where cultural certainty and ‘authenticity’ is the only thing allowed so white people can decide who you are? Multiculturalism which insists on staying static despite changing demographics.

That of course brings up the question of so called community leaders and patriarchs. Who, in most cases, are more interested in photo-ops with the Prime Minister and getting on panels and boards or becoming famous. Maybe these people agreed to the idea of ethnic festivals, to Diwali and the Lantern Festival ten years ago. How about seeking a review? In my experience they would rather be subservient to the government/Asia:NZ as long as their status in the community is maintained.

One way to move is to dismantle the hierarchical structures that insist on representing minorities. Then to rebuild. To separate international trade and business from local celebrations of culture and are yet connected because economic development is common to both. To restructure such as to engage with grassroots, where diversity is not a commodity within the soft power of our nation but a real value, where Asians are in charge of Asian culture, where young Kiwis of Asian origin have a say because this is their future. Asia:NZ is due for a new CEO. Maybe an Asian CEO? Perhaps a complete rehaul?

And for all this ethnic communities have to reflect upon their own place and culture; to break the model minority myth, to build relations with each other even as we work through cultural maintenance and identity, so we have a say in the matters of this nation, to be seen as more than pawns by political parties and the white echelons. Remember what Uncle Bob said? Otherwise,

Most people think, great man will come from Wellington, Make a flash festival and make everybody feel high.…get up stand up…

*sorry for the wrong script format and apologies to my Chinese friends for using their surnames.

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http://kiwistargazer.blogspot.com/

I may not have enough time to write one of my ponderous blogs but here is one that I enjoy from time to time. Anjum Rehman has a definite point-of-view and is a wonderful person. More power to you sista!

My Urban Gardening # 5 thereabouts.


While I procrastinate about how best to write my next post-it is half written-summer is here with a vengeance. Although it rains in the mornings, they say in this part of the world, it is hot as the rest of the day. I had my first swim in the Pacific Ocean some weeks ago but have yet to go in after that. Meanwhile my garden flourishes. This year I have done away with the chilli and eggplant. I have in my little balcony at the back a long pot of strawberry, spinach, cherry tomatoes red and yellow, broad beans, red guava and lime. This year I have vodoo-ed the pots. So the aphids, the fungal gnats, the ants and assorted summer pests are afraid to come anywhere close. So far so good.

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This year I planted seeds I had harvested from my lemon basil and tulsi. Little pots on my kitchen window sill, protected from the fiercely cold Auckland wind but allowing plenty of sun. It is a miracle when seeds, coaxed and chatted to, germinate and grow then become robust plants. This is my family, these plants. I’ve got blood and bones liquid to feed them too. Yeah it seems squeamish-to feed human/animal stuff to plants and then think of them as ‘vegetarian’. But then I wonder how vegetables are grown in bulk without feeding them (or enhancing growth, if that is the agri-market-speak). Better blood and bones than mineral depleting chemical fertilisers. As long as my plants are happy and I can go out the back door to cut some chives/coriander/spinach/basil/pick tomatoes even while I cook. Yeah, this summer is going well so far with my plant family. I just need to loosen the soil and repot some. And I do seem to getting better at gardening. From never having tried back in Bombay to making sure it on my list of things-to-do-always, kind of like meditation. That’s all.