You have to love the Irish, if not someone called Ewan MacKenna whose outburst re the All Blacks haka called to mind all sorts of Irish jokes and – worst crime of all – made him sound distinctly English.
You'd think a representative of an island nation with a history of oppression and divided society would understand the essential inclusivity and union of the haka as practised by the All Blacks.
Not a bit of it. His view of the haka and its reason for being was about as culturally dumb as Kiwis insisting that all Irish say things like "To be sure, to be sure…", "Faith and begorrah" and "Top of the morning to ye".
Still, I should thank him, really; gave me the best laugh for ages when he said of the haka: "Yet even World Rugby have it in their rules that to not stand on your own 10-metre line and watch a bunch stick out their tongues and slap their thighs is worthy of a fine and a telling off."
Writing in something called Pundit Arena – apparently a sports website – he said: "Indeed if we are to engage in these cultural activities in rugby, perhaps Ireland's opponents should have to spend a few minutes watching our players sitting around a table in midfield, sipping cups of tea and bemoaning everything from economic migrants to the latest bin charges.
"That's not to say it doesn't have beauty and meaning to Maoris [sic], but Irish dancing can having [sic] meaning to us and that doesn't change the fact that it was monetised by Michael Flatley turning to liquid plastic on stage.
"Again there are those who'll say it's native and it is to some, but the majority of New Zealand players haven't been Maori. Instead, they descend from forefathers who were actually ruthless oppressors of natives."
Ah, what a perfect display of ignorance from a fan of a rugby team that doesn't even sing its own national anthem at the Rugby World Cup because it upsets those in Northern Ireland with unionist tendencies. So, in 1995, they invented a new song (Ireland's Call) which they sing instead.
That's like New Zealanders singing Po Karekare Ana in English because it might offend some Pakeha to have it done in Maori.
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MacKenna's advocacy of a ban on the haka might be acceptable if confined to a sporting context. Even then, it doesn't hold water. MacKenna says the haka gives the All Blacks a psychological advantage (yawn, cliché alert), overlooking three other national teams (Fiji, Tonga, Samoa) who perform pre-match rituals stemming from their ancient culture (but who win sod-all internationally).
It's a crock; there is no evidence of any advantage unless, maybe, opposition sides let it get to them instead of viewing it as a challenge and a piece of theatre – and using it as motivation.
Kiwis, though some might be upset by a lack of respect shown the haka, must expect on occasion to have rival fans trying to drown it out.
But trying to draw a line under the haka by saying most New Zealand rugby players belong to the oppressors, not "the natives", shows sublime stupidity – missing the point that the haka has become not just a symbol of maoritanga but New Zealand as a whole.
For an Irishman to suggest otherwise is hilariously obtuse. We're trying to sort out our racial discrimination, pal; the unifying factor of the haka and the national anthem sung in Maori is part of that. How're the religious divisions which created the two Irelands going? New Zealand is far from perfect but we are at least able to sing our national anthem in both languages. When will Ireland sing theirs in Irish?
While some South African misfits chose to sing Ole, Ole, Ole, while the haka was going on last weekend, the most deliberate sabotage hails from Twickenham. The English sing Swing Low Sweet Chariot to drown the haka out when the All Blacks are there.
We have to, as I say, expect some of that without getting all bent out of shape. But when it comes from an Irishman making all the mistakes that the Irish habitually hate about the English – arrogance, lack of understanding, cultural condescension and dismissal ("pandering to the dance", he called it) – it's a bit sad…for him.
It's sad too because most Kiwis have renewed respect for the Irish rugby team after their historic home-and-away wins over the All Blacks recently. Gosh, guess the haka didn't enter into it when the opposition plays better. Who'd have thought it? Not the "natives"…
After Japan's upset win over Ireland, the Irish may now meet the All Blacks in the quarter-finals.
If that happens, I propose to ask a fluent Maori speaker I know to translate an Irish joke so I can visit Mr MacKenna with the same sort of cultural insight he's displayed. When and if the All Blacks beat Ireland, I will email him the Maori translation of a joke like this: In Japan, some of the Irish media visited a local restaurant – and did an Irish runner (you run off before the meal arrives).
Nothing like cultural misappropriation to make a point, eh? Fiddle-dee-dee-potato. Hardly borders on racism at all.
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