So it begins. 'R.I.P. London' spraypainted onto Masjid Umar in Mt Roskill, windows smashed. People in London have died suddenly and horribly, but I didn't realise London itself was dead. Sure, Mt Roskill is pretty dead, but London?
I can say that about Roskill - I was born there. Abdimalik though, also a Roskill native, disagreed with me last week. A teenage mate of my actor friend Mohamed 'Somali Superstar' Osman, Abdimalik assured me after the closing show of the superlative play Migrant Nation, that the best parties were in the old Roskill stomping-grounds. What can I say - it's been a while since the days of wasting time throwing beer bottles onto cars off the side of the mountain, that's for sure. Not that I ever did that. I was at home, reading.
The person behind the hits on the Ponsonby, Roskill, Blockhouse Bay, West and South Auckland mosques, was someone who knew exactly how to get to all of them quickly, and who was just waiting for an excuse. Common sense, and the instant wave of public political condemnation, would say that these hits are not a broad-based socially representative reaction.
So you try to shrug off these petty acts, because this is just New Zealand - but they still haunt you. At the very least, they make my feet itch. At worst, people are trapped in the house. Remember last time, 2001? A bearded Bengali friend of mine (from Hillsborough - a fancy name for part of Mt Roskill) was punched in the street that day. Drivers with too deep a tan were being pulled over by the police, in case they were riding car-bombs to take out Three Kings Mall. Remember the time before that? Roskill 1996 and the anti-Somali election-year attacks? 1000 people marched in Mt Roskill against hate-crimes that year. It looks like a repeat is in the works, a Roskill rally in support of the Mosques, in solidarity with New Zealand's Muslim communities, and upholding the actual multicultural ethos of London which doesn't quite seem dead yet. If you'd like to help, contact RAM (Residents Action Movement) or GPJA (Global Peace and Justice Auckland) for more information. If you reply to this post, I can pass on contact details.
The Muslim leadership in the UK and New Zealand are currently showing tremendous forbearance in the face of this misdirected and building backlash. But I don't have any religion to moderate my tolerance levels, my disgust. Whenever loyalty is unjustly questioned, I start to question the value in proving loyalty, and the value of loyalty itself.
New Zealand is not the 'Motherland' or 'Fatherland' to me. Who thinks of their country as their parent? China is definitely some kind of 'Motherland'. Authoritarian, scoldy, infinitely metaphorical, a bit old-fashioned. I always thought of Singapore as something like an 'Annoying Auntyland'. And maybe New Zealand as a 'little-brotherland'. But little brothers can't disappoint you as much as your country can. So how do we relate? I chatted to Keith Ng tonight, who characterised New Zealand as the 'defactopartnerland,' which seemed to fit well. (Yes, I have been forced to actively seek out an identity-politics conversation because I was asked to speak on a panel organised by the Electoral Enrolment Office targeting Asian 1.5ers, even though, unlike Keith, I am not one.) Keith talked of a
lingering questioning over loyalty to this country, and the loyalty of this country to me... I feel discomfort, but I'm committed. Kind of like an unhappy marriage.
At this point, Keith asked for a second to think about why exactly he cares about maintaining this relationship with New Zealand. While he pondered, I provided a break from identity-politics talk with some light ent. chatter, which you can use to track the passing of time. (By the way, my screen-name in this conversation translates as Falungong Freedom Whore)
give me a sec.
Ok. [pop culture interlude] I saw Kung Fu Hustle on the Big Screen Friday. I love it when the qi is so strong that Stephen Chow's shirt flies off.
[pop culture interlude continues] Then I saw Ghost in the Shell:2 last night, the dialogue of which was entirely comprised of quotes from Descartes, Dante, the Bible, probably Spinoza and St Augustine, and other religious/political philosophers and classical Japanese poets.
[and some more] I love how the background was intensely realistic, either through a decade of painstaking paint, or CGI, but the people stayed flat and 2-d. Humans have to stay abstractable. It's very important.
[further pop culture notes] and it looked so cool that I took screenshots with my digital camera, and my Teocheow-ghetto tagger friend Drasnor was like "man, you are so Asian."
Okay, I give up. I don't know why.
To refine the marriage analogy, it's not so much a marriage, but we're living together. I do want to continue living together, but I'm just not sure about the future - partly because I'm still young. And it's not like I don't want to be here in the future, but I just don't want to get married yet, because I don't even know what it means, and if I did, I'm not sure if we know each other well enough to get into it. And there's not necessarily a happy ending to this story. We might decide to split up later - which is why I think we should take it slow, and not rush into any commitments that the other party can't keep... I might wind up being a life-long bachelor. New Zealand might end up having one-night stands for the rest of its life.