It's the most wonderful time of the year. The scent of gingerbread is wafting through the house, the stocking holders keep falling off the mantelpiece, I've broken the bank in various jam-packed Westfields, and I've eaten my calorific allowances for December, January and February in the last two weeks. Ah, Christmas. The season of magic and joy. And, indeed, for those among us whose conduct this year has left much to be desired – reckoning, courtesy of the jolly old man in Coca-Cola red.
As frantic as I've been over the last few weeks, I figure Father Christmas is probably busier, so I thought I'd save him some time. Thus, I've made him a list, and checked it twice. Let's find out who's been naughty or nice.
Of course – sidebar – in a time when we face the prospect of devastating climate change, a pile of coal doesn't seem like the best consolation prize for the naughty list. Fortunately, as recent news stories with headlines like "From stools to fuels: the street lamp that runs on dog do" suggest, animal faeces is having a moment as a natural fuel source. As such, I humbly suggest that we update Santa's B-list gift to a box of dung. With a snappy new catchphrase like: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, or Santa will bring you a pile of poo."
So, without further ado…
NAUGHTY: Garrick Tremain
While I personally suspect that Tremain has been on the naughty list for quite a few years, this year he's at the top. I'm sure the self-proclaimed "ace cartoonist" – who recently added a cartoon ridiculing the measles crisis in Samoa to his abominable back catalogue – will have something to say about it. If only he could find someone to publish his "Santa is a meanie… something, something… lolz whakapapa…" cartoon…
NICE: The heroes of Whakaari
Both the helicopter pilots who landed on Whakaari immediately after the eruption to evacuate the wounded, and the Police and Defence Force personnel who returned later to retrieve the bodies still lying on the island deserve more than Santa could ever give. They each deserve a box of puppies, a lifetime supply of Whittaker's chocolate, a Dave Dobbyn song in their honour, and box tickets to watch the All Blacks at Eden Park. At least.
NAUGHTY: The dickhead who hurled racist abuse at Auckland waitress Mia Griffiths.
August of 2019 marked the first time that I was allowed to publish the word "dickhead" in this column. Given I was describing a grown man verbally abusing a teenager, it was entirely justified. At the time, I wrote: "If there was an award going for excellence in being a tosser, he'd be a strong contender. It takes quite some skill to simultaneously belittle and humiliate a young woman, insult her family, call upon racist and classist tropes, mangle the Māori language, make someone feel unsafe at work, drop your partner in hot water with her employers, expose a culture of apparent tolerance of racism within a senior leadership team and sully the reputation of an international brand. Top marks, dickhead." Months later, I wholeheartedly concur with myself, and I'm sure Santa does too. Have a pile of poo, dickhead.
NICE: The kids hellbent on saving the planet from climate change
It's not easy being a teenager. When I was in my teens, it was hard enough to leave the house with a pimple, let alone lead marches around the country (and the world) to try to stop the destruction of the planet. The climate strike kids are alright. And deserve a raft of sustainable gifts, including not dying from climate change-related disasters in their 50s. Please, Santa?
NAUGHTY: Israel Folau
Sure, Santa isn't God, but he still sees you when you're sleeping, knows when you're awake and knows if you've been bad or good (so be good, for goodness' sake!). He probably has his elves do a social media search too these days, so Folau is thoroughly cancelled.
NICE: Pania Newton
It takes a lot to stare down a corporate giant, the Crown and the country's racists, and Pania Newton did just that. Newton's leadership of a peaceful occupation helped to propel Ihumātao into the national conversation, where it has remained throughout 2019. I can think of the perfect gift, not just for Pania, but for all Māori with outstanding land claims… Santa, how about giving us our land back?
NAUGHTY: John Tamihere
As it turns out, Santa isn't really into Nazi slogans. He's suggested that we give John a special gift of cat poo. (Google "John Tamihere cats" and all will become clear.)
NICE: Māori midwives and Melanie Reid
There's a baby that will be spending Christmas with his whānau rather than foster parents this year, thanks to the Māori midwives at Hawkes Bay Hospital and journalist Melanie Reid (and a number of other people including whānau, legal counsel and Ngāti Kahungunu, among others). This group effort to prevent a child being separated from his whānau should put everyone involved at the top of Santa's Nice List. And surely, a happy baby, and happy whānau is the best Christmas gift of all.
Whether you've been naughty or nice this year, or if – like me – you're probably languishing somewhere in the middle, have a very merry Christmas. I'll be back in January. Until then, be good. Or if you can't be good, be good at it.