Census and sensibility
As you may or may not be aware, tonight is Census night. It's time to make your contribution towards our self-knowledge as a nation (and my ability to make silly maps) by filling in your forms.
That's if you've received any, of course. As Stats NZ announced recently, they've had difficulty getting the forms to apartment dwellers. For security and completeness reasons, they can't just pop them in the letterbox (though even that's hard enough in some buildings): they have to deliver them to you in person, which means you have to be home when you call. So, even before anyone's sent in their form, they've already discovered one (unsurprising) demographic fact: inner-city people go out a lot.
The other census-related story at the moment is the vexed question of ethnicity, and the email campaign to get people to put themselves down as "New Zealander". I was going to have a rant about how idiotic (and probably racist) it is for white people to deny that they have an ethnicity, which is what they're doing when they erase it in favour of nationality. But Russell Brown and Tze Ming Mok have already done it with far more eloquent venom than I could have summoned.
I'm usually quite happy to call myself "Pakeha". On the other hand, I'm still a bit confused about ethnicity myself. I've been among people who believe that it is purely culturally defined, without any necessary basis in "race" or ancestry at all, but Tze Ming's post has made me think twice. She quotes a definition of "ethnic group" by author Michael E. Brown, one that includes these prerequisites:
- the group must have a name for itself;
- the people in the group must believe in a common ancestry;
- the members of the group must share historical memories;
- the group must have a shared culture, generally based on a combination of language, religion, laws, customs, [etc];
- the group must feel attachment to a specific piece of territory, which it may or may not actually inhabit; and
- the people in the group have to think of themselves as a group ... the group must be self-aware.
Based upon this, I'm not sure that "Pakeha" counts as an ethnic group after all. Points 3, 4 and 5 seem okay, but 2 seems debatable given the fairly diverse ancestries within the group. Given the (mostly misinformed) controversy regarding the use of the word "Pakeha", 1 and 6 seem to disqualify it. On the other hand, the definition might include smaller groups that are generally thought not to count as discrete "ethnicities": individual iwi, hapū and perhaps even whānau would meet the criteria, as would similar structures within other cultures (such as Scottish clans).
I had being toying with the idea of putting myself down as "Pakeha/European". I've been here 30 years, so I must have absorbed at least some Pakeha culture. But I wasn't born here, and I don't hold many of the supposed core "Kiwi" values: I don't want to live on a quarter-acre section, I don't drink anything from half-gallon flagons (well, maybe scotch occasionally) and I don't particularly care for pavlova. On the other hand, I don't feel much connection with "Englishness" (certainly not the Daily Mail-reading "Little Englander" variety), so perhaps "European" is more appropriate. Blame it on being what Che Tibby would call a "metic".
Bugger it. Maybe I'll just put "Wellingtonian" on my form! I'm only half-joking: apart from the ancestry question (which would be a bit tricky for me anyway), it meets most of the criteria. I certainly feel more like a "Wellingtonian" than a "New Zealander", and I'd probably feel more at home in parts of London, Melbourne or New York than I would in Taihape, Gore or Whitby. If anywhere is "home", a "specific piece of territory" to which I feel attachment, then it's Wellington. Bring back City States!