Treatygate

Political erectness in Porirua

This photo [blurred to conceal the boy’s identity after a complaint from his father] was taken at the 2008 opening of Porirua’s Te Rauparaha Arena [link to press article removed].

In front is [name removed], a descendant of the great chief.

Behind the 11 year old are two chaps who seem unusually excited to see him. (I think the third one may be texting.)

In fairness to young [name removed], the tattooed flashers’ attentions are nothing personal.

I’ve noticed they’re just as excited to see thousands of other Porirua children.

The kids have to pass a lineup of these wooden woodies on the way to their swimming lessons and basketball games.

Am I the only parent to find this a bit off?

Oh I’m sure there’s a fascinating cultural reason why the Porirua City Council had to erect carvings of violent rapists outside a children’s recreation centre.

But does that mean they’re free to display images which, were they not Maori, would be classed as pornography?

Did the Ngati Toa carvers really have to go so far out of their way to offend?

UPDATE: 8 OCTOBER 2011: I’ve just received a phone call from this boy’s irate father accusing me of using his son’s image for depraved sexual purposes.

He wants to meet me to explain the depth of his offence in person. Otherwise he will go to the police.

I invited him to do just that, as I’m not convinced that a meeting with an enraged descendant of Te Rauparaha would be good for my health.

However, I’m always sorry when something I do creates unintended offence, and I’m sorry that he and his wife feel upset by this post.

He asked me how I would feel if our positions were reversed. The answer is that they wouldn’t be. I simply would not allow a young son of mine to pose for a newspaper in front of statues of men with erect penises.

If I did, I could hardly claim to be offended by the predictable media reaction.

I had thought I would take the post down, but having looked it up and read the words the man objected to, I now have no intention of doing so.

I stand by every word I’ve written.

But out of respect for the father’s concern, I have now blurred the image, withheld the boy’s name, and deleted the link to the original article.

My verbal apology was not enough for this man. After continuing to berate me for some time, he asked me if I would furnish him with a written apology.

At that point, I lost it. I’ve just woken up after a long day farewelling my father and am in no mood for grovelling. I said, “No” and hung up.

In case I haven’t made myself clear, I certainly am sorry for having caused him offence, but certainly am not sorry for highlighting yet another New Zealand cultural double standard.

UPDATE : 8 NOVEMBER 2011: Here’s a short testimonial to the character of Te Rauparaha from A Mission of Honour by John McLean:

“The demon devoured all his prisoners, himself tearing open the living mother and holding the half-formed embryo upon a pointed stick in the flames to be afterwards devoured.”

That was from the diary of the ship Acheron, after her Captain Stokes had returned from Te Rauparaha’s killing fields at Kaiapoi.

For the Porirua City Council to honour this monster with his own stadium is akin to the Germans building an Adolf Hitler Gasworks or Phnom Penh opening a Pol Pot Ping Pong Palace.

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