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Philip Patston on... Tamihere (again) and hypocrisy (again)

Mon 7 Aug 2006 In: People View at NDHA

Philip Patston I couldn't contain the little swell of cynical outrage that rose in my throat while watching John Tamihere and Pita Sharples disclose and confess their connections with domestic violence on 60 Minutes last Monday night. As I watched them mix their toxic cocktail of pity, guilt and shame, then piously proffer their indigenous heterosexual manhood as the chaser – to rid Maori of oppression and create the way forward for society – I wondered how they live with themselves. More than that, I wondered how other people live with them. Their wives, children, friends, colleagues, constituents. Why are men like these allowed to get away with the insidious, abject hypocrisy they represent? How do they rise to such levels of power and authority, taking moral stands on social behaviour and passing judgement on lifestyles other than their own, while hiding their own flaws behind dishonest, sanctimonious façades? These so-called pillars of society, rulers of our airwaves, leaders of our country are damaged people. They were abused as kids and they've grown to be abusers. They have spent their lives trying to forget their childhood roles in the horror movies of their past and, steeped in their unconscious denial, have ended up directing frightening re-makes, casting their own families. Then, like they were the epitome of moral and social standards, they wag their fingers at the gay community and the killers of the Kahui twins. Give me a break. I'm not being racist – this has nothing to do with culture. But it has everything to do with gender and masculinity. This is about heterosexual men still believing they have a monopoly on virtue. As Sharples so rightly put it, to give him credit, that virtue is false – as false as a drag queen's eyebrows, I might add. I'm not denying them the right to redemption, either – we all need the chance to make mistakes and learn from past experience. Believe me, I have unbridled compassion for little Johnny and Pita Pan, cowering under the wrath of their parents' raised hands, fists, belts or whatever it was. But I cannot abide the schoolyard bullies they've become, fabricating tales to tell on the geeky kids – the ones that don't fit in – as subterfuge for their own misbehaviour. I'm not questioning that these men had difficult – even awful – upbringings. I'm even reasonably comfortable and not at all surprised that they have re-enacted their childhood trauma and perpetuated the cycle of violence, dishonesty and mistrust in their own family lives. What really gets me is that they have the bloody nerve to sit in judgement of others, the gall to take the higher moral ground when it comes to aggression and parenting and, particularly in the case of Tamihere, absolutely no humility in the face of their own failings. How dare Tamihere wax lyrical about the right of gays and lesbians to adopt and parent kids? What right does he have to parent kids, admitting he's been less than a paragon of virtue in the fatherhood department? Which is more harmful – seeing Dad kiss another man or the bash? I bet he's also among those lining up to have a go at disabled people wanting to be parents. And what about Sharples on Close Up last month, admonishing the Kahui whanau for not talking to the police when, as the camera turned for a close up on his behaviour last week, he didn't have the guts to speak in more than vague allusions about his own contribution to domestic violence statistics? Both men almost boasted that their prerequisite skills for holding the positions of public responsibility were to learn to scrap and manage anger. Raised with “the mongrel of violence”, they have learnt to smell the same despair in the houses of the families with whom they work. John's father apparently told him he didn't want his son buried in the shit that he was. With a metaphor like that bouncing around his teenage brain, it is little wonder the man is homophobic! I found it very hard to take him seriously when Tamihere proclaimed that the key to responding to children trapped in helplessness was… wait for it… intervention! Kia ora John, why didn't I think of such a specific solution? What else? Oh ok, we need to check our cupboards for false virtues! Well, let me tell you, John – I want to be the one checking the cupboards because I have no faith whatsoever that you know what you're looking for. Like most straight men, you're bound to miss something with the cursory glance you call “looking”. I often say when I'm talking about disability issues that non-disabled people haven't done much to encourage thriving among the disabled community, so how about letting disabled people have a go. I say the same thing to the heterosexual community – and especially to Sharples and Tamihere, who said they wonder constantly how they can make up for what they've done: You lot haven't done a particularly good job with the younger generation by all accounts, so perhaps you could let us queers show our skill in building families. We've had to learn how because so often we end up disowned by our straight parents. In your own notorious words, Mr Sharples – I suggest, on behalf of all heterosexual men, you own that too. Gay, disabled, vegetarian Philip Patston has performed professionally for fifteen years and is well-known for his live and broadcast comedy, including the stand-up comedy show “Pulp Comedy” between 1997 and 2003. The year of his ‘straight' role of Josh Sinclair on “Shortland Street” in 1999 he was named Queer of the Year by TV show “Queer Nation” and received a Billy T James award for comedy. He's a recovering social worker and human rights activist who spends his time running Diversityworks ( and choosing his gigs.     Philip Patston - 7th August 2006

Credit: Philip Patston

First published: Monday, 7th August 2006 - 12:00pm

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