The All Blacks Haka and the Republican Debates: Is It Just Me…?

I’m not a rugby fan (unless you count the movie Invictus). But I am a huge New Zealand fan, and therefore, logically, I am a fan of the New Zealand All Blacks’ Haka.

Don’t know the Haka? Think war dance. Think Maori ritual. Think rhino pawing the ground before charging. Then watch this:

The team the Kiwis are threatening, their historical nemesis the South Africa Springboks–they look a little scared, don’t they? You can see that one guy swallowing. (I always wonder why the opposing team doesn’t just look away while they’re being “haka’d”, whistle a little tune, y’know, like, “dum de dum, I’m so bored…”)

But they don’t. They stand there and watch as if hypnotized. They can’t look away. Just like I can’t. Which reminds me of the U.S. presidential election. Specifically, the debates. More specifically, the Republican debates.

(Note: not saying I couldn’t use the Democrats as an example here, it’s just that this year, with the huge Republican field, and with Donald Trump, well…let’s just say that civility has gone out the window a bit faster, and with a slightly larger crash, than it has with the Democrats.)

They’re calling each other names on Twitter. They’re using words like “dummy” and “low-energy guy” (code for unmanly). Now, to you this might not seem parallel to the foot-stomping, chest-slapping, “I’m coming for you with my war club” violence of the haka, but…think about it. Isn’t the maturity level about the same? How about the overall effect on the viewer’s emotions? Or, conversely, how about the effect on rational discussion focused on solving problems?


I keep thinking about the mesmerizing quality of the haka, its compelling force. And I wonder: what if, prior to one of our national political conventions in 2016, some group performed a haka threatening, say, poverty? “We’re comin for ya, poverty! We’re gonna raise that minimum wage!” Or global conflict? “Aaargh!! We’re going to take in more refugees and stop secretly torturing political prisoners!”

Ehh–it’d never work. Might as well have a bake sale to fund the air force, like those old bumper stickers said. Meanwhile, I’ll watch the haka when it comes on, and the debates, and afterwards I’ll go take a shower and engage in rational conversation with someone.

What do you think? Does raw, animal aggression play any kind of role in our politics? Is there an upside to our political hakas?

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