If there were any National Front members at this morning's ANZAC dawn service in Auckland, I didn't see them - they were either too cold to strip down to their NF t-shirts, or too afraid of copping a walking-stick over the head from the RSA.
But you might have seen instead, a tiny Chinese woman in a long purple puffer-jacket being lifted up by her strapping white boyfriend to see the old soldiers over the heads of the crowd, like your dad would lift you up. You would have seen people bundled up in families, their clothing brushed by the orange dawn, patient and mute as the grave. You would have heard a cellphone ring briefly during the minute of silence. I was wishing I'd brought my grandmother, though she would never have roused herself so early, and would have been disappointed at the lack of food available.
The previous week, a troupe of eight or so National Front members were spotted having a natter and a latte in the Open Late Cafe. That's right chaps - Ponsonby. What is the far right coming to? Sources informed me they were up for some anti-China demo. Did anyone, um, notice? Before my 2004 adventures in the Deep South (Wellington) I'd had no personal contact with any white supremacists. The National Front in Auckland - now that's funny. Imagine how bored white Aucklanders would be if, in accordance with the NF policy, all the Asians and Pacific Islanders were repatriated to their countries of origin? What would they eat? Who would be left to complain about? Who... well... Who would be left?
Sure, the National Front are a joke. Except when they go out bashing people. So what do you do? New South Wales' favourite blogger and far-right-watchdog, Darp Hau, has been trying for a strict balance in his approach: both keeping track of every white-supremacist move, and mocking them senseless. Here for example, is 'Everything you ever wanted to know about the New Zealand National Front but were too doubled over in laughter to ask'. Darp, aka Matt Henderson, maintains that most peculiar of identities - that of a Maori Australian - and true to his roots has set up a new ANZAC alliance of sorts. He's handing over his white-supremacist-watch archives to a transtasman anti-racist blog-coalition: Fightdemback. Members include my old colleagues Multicultural Aotearoa, and apparently, the venerable New Zealand Federation of Ethnic Councils.
Warning: Darp's potted histories and watchdog-entries on our local National Front fruitloops make for addictively repellent reading, but reader-comments on his entries, and quotes posted from neofascist talkboards, do include hate-speech, death-threats, and other highly offensive comments from white-supremacists. Also, links on darpism.com and fightdemback to the aforementioned talkboards will probably set off hate-site monitoring alarms in your office.
I wouldn't recommend surfing Stormfront for the purposes of knowing thine enemy (and especially not for knowing how to spell 'enemy'). It's not worth the nausea. God, the hatred! The paranoia! The pomposity! Good lord, the sheer illiteracy!
I didn't go to the dawn service just to spot Nazis. I went this year for my grandmother. There were New Zealand Chinese and other New Zealand Asians in the ANZAC forces of course. But while New Zealanders were deployed across Europe, North Africa and the Pacific in World War II, the parents and grandparents of most of the non-Japanese East and Southeast Asians currently in this country (including mine) were fighting home-turf wars of resistance. The grandparents of nearly every Mt Roskill Mainlander, or Howick Hongky, or Taiwanese riceboy were bogging down the Japanese army with the sheer mass of their country, on one bamboo-tube of rice per day, with maybe a little bit of chilli on the side. The grandfather of every Asian currently on Shortland Street was personally bayoneted in Singapore. And I have a feeling nearly every Southeast Asian's tight-permed grandma was in a former life, fighting the Japanese occupation in a tropical jungle under the leadership of a Communist-led guerrilla cell after colonial governments were outgunned. You know - as a 'terrorist insurgent'. Here's mine, clad in a classic Southeast Asian Chinese battle-mash of Nationalist uniform and Communist gun: Chan Shid Kwan, 1924-2004. She looks like she's playing dress-up, doesn't she? I don't think it was as much fun as she was expecting.
Though we weren't ANZACs, it seems that one basic geographical element of why this country was never occupied in the last World War (another being that big ocean) was because we were in the way. The Japanese army just had too many other countries to plow through first. All sides of the Yellow Peril footed the bill in this hemisphere, Japan included. So hey you Kiwis, we took a bullet for you. And now we live here. So hopefully, after he's had a whinge about our driving, you can get your grandpa to give my grandma her props.
As for the ongoing Sino-Japanese 'war': selected apologies have been offered to try and bring this bout of cynically channelled public and diplomatic violence to a close. It's been difficult to find any rational insider's opinion to link to here. So on this matter, this is The Last Post.
Here is a meaningless coincidence that has yet to be mentioned on the inflamed talkboards I've seen.
Sure, try to weigh it up, look to and fro from hand to hand and you'll find you're just shaking your head at the pointlessness of experiments in moral equivalency, rebuttal, and revenge.
I just remember them.