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This guest piece comes from guerrillasurgeon over in New Zealand, and he tackles people’s cultural indignation at a Maori Santa:

This week there’s been a huge fuss about a “Maori Santa”. I’m not sure that this counts as a tremendously philosophical question, but maybe it is. Though it’ll probably attract Otto the Goat back…

The committee that organised the Christmas parade in the city of Nelson – I must say a very pleasant place and one of the whitest cities if not the whitest city in the country, decided to replace the traditional red-suited, fur-trimmed, cotton wool-bearded Santa figure with a relatively clean-shaven Maori in clothes more suited to the summer. This has caused a huge reaction, from the usual suspects who claim that their culture is being denigrated or changed in some negative way by not having the traditional ‘design’.

They fiercely resent their “tradition” being changed, and I think it’s maybe a reflection of the fact that people often get more annoyed at tiny personal things than huge problems. But I must confess to a certain surprise that with all the problems facing the country at the moment, including the lack of affordable housing, that a Maori Santa would become the focus of attention. Having said that, there is a deeply racist underbelly in much of NZ society that most would deny, except those who are victims of it. And it seems to rear its ugly head whenever the other is perceived as being privileged in some small way.

I was unaware of the problem until my favourite left-wing blogger weighed in with a sub-head that said, “What Were They Thinking?” which castigated the organisers of the parade for replacing the white Santa with a Maori Santa, or rather ‘taking the Santa out of the parade’. And in the comments section the usual suspects weighed in, some of them, as usual, quoting American right-wing academics, and others, as usual, being reasonably incomprehensible. And me expressing my disappointment that someone whose blog I regularly enjoy would align themselves with people like Megyn Kelly. You can see that here:

I still can’t figure out why people are so upset. This is supposed to be a country that’s relaxed about race and ethnicity, at least according to many – usually conservatives funnily enough. But it does sort of raise issues about culture. I once had a student tell me “Us white people got no culture, have we?” And I’m afraid that the poor wee lovey was then used as a teaching opportunity, as I asked her a number of cultural questions beginning with, “Why do we let off fireworks on November 5th?” – “Dunno – Guy Fawkes?” “What did he do then?” “Dunno”. “Well then you being white, that’s part of your culture, and you know absolutely bugger all about it.” So is it a question of we got no culture or we don’t give a fuck about our culture? Until somehow we perceive it as being threatened.

But I’d like to know what the hell threat is there in a Maori Santa. Apparently, some kids were disappointed they didn’t recognise Santa at the parade. Although I guarantee there were bugger all Maori kids at that parade, because a Polynesian face is extremely rare there.

And how is this handled in other countries like the US? Hell, most of Africa is Christian; how do they manage Santa if they have them at all? Would they have to import a white person? And where is the goodwill to all men that is supposed to characterise Christmas? Bah humbug!

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...