Friday, January 14, 2005

Rationality gone mad..."Voltaire's Bastards"

Currently rereading John Ralston Saul "Voltaires Bastards", a book I first read around 5 years ago (then lent to a mate, my tattoist, Martin Saddler, who promptly lost it and all his and partner Vanya Tickles' possessions in a house fire on the Otago Peninsula). Saul hoes into the 'feudal fiefdoms' that I recognise in university research, especially matauranga Maori. We are guarding our little patches (and believe me, they are little) against all-comers, as if we can't believe some fool locked us in the lolly shop. And we parody the Enlightenment call for free and open rational debate, all the time holding to a self-agrandising display: colonial mutton dressed up as cultural lamb.

Had a classic display of this in my project where, for purposes of statistical analyses I was told (by a senior Maori scientist recently bestowed with a Queens honour, for what it's worth...) that the most important thing was to have a 'Representative Sample Group of Maori Growers', known for the rest of that meeting as the RSMG (gotta have an acronym, right...). Anyway, I always thought that would be a tricky thing to get, given that Statistics NZ has struggled to identfy Maori (as they acknowledge themselves...goddam uncontrolled sex lives that we had in the colony...).

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