It happened again.
The first time, I let it slide. I thought somebody must’ve made a comical mistake or something; I even had a chuckle. It just seemed so outrageously self-important, so very self-indulgent; so utterly self-aggrandising.
Then it happened again. Then again. Then another time. Then another one after that. Then I started to worry. I could appreciate that we as a nation were coming off arrogant. I understood that this ostentatious show of national pride needed to be dialled back somewhat, lest our perceived slogan should become, ‘New Zealand, the Pompous Nation’.
I have mentioned it before and it looks as though I’m saying it again: the NZRFU’s pre-match ritual is out of control.
With a national anthem comprising two verses of Te Reo along with two verses of English followed by a Maori Haka, that’s over five minutes of national pride; other countries scarcely need one.
It wouldn’t be so bad either if we restricted this prolonged pride show to home games and used a shorter, perhaps two versed anthem, overseas, but we don’t, do we?
No, we don’t. We take our national saga of pride everywhere; we watch in anticipation as with perfect enunciation the two-versed Te Reo anthem is sung; we watch with boredom and growing agitation as the words are basically repeated in English; we watch from a sense of obligation as the opposing nation – the home team – sings their brief anthem and finally, we’re ready to go. We watch as the two teams fall into formation…
Wait, wait, wait. That’s not the start of the game at all. Despite being visitors in another nation, our team and by implication, our nation, makes their nation stand to attention while we spend the best part of another minute yelling and screaming in their faces and if they fail to respect our display of native culture, well, somebody’s head might just end up on a pike.
Honestly, do we consider this respecting of their nation, of their people, of their culture? Let’s be fair, Maori Hakas are not friendly. They are war dances and as declarations of war go, they are intimidating; especially if the recipient doesn’t fully understand the meaning of the exhibit. Even so we like to perform them as often as possible, at any opportunity – welcomes, farewells, victories, deaths, challenges, remembrances, celebrations…
Only a few weeks back David Cunliffe thought he was having his presence celebrated by a lone Maori man who lunged across his path and appeared to burst into a Haka of some sort; as is the fashion, Mr Cunfille stood his ground in a show of respect to the man.
Yeah, turns out the little Maori dude was cussing him out.
Don’t for a second think that I am forsaking my homeland, I most certainly am not. I take no issue with people wanting to embrace their native culture, but despite what many seem to think, New Zealand’s culture is really no more remarkable than the culture of any other country around the world.
Perhaps we need to stop acting like it is.
Article by Tim Walker
Edited by Ngaire Spect
Photography by Tony Bach