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There’s an old saying which goes something like this.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

So why have some Māori become so upset and precious about the Spanish women’s football team doing a mock haka a few days ago?

What the Spaniards were doing was having a bit of fun. But importantly, at the same time they were acknowledging which country they were in, and paying respect to the culture of this country’s original settlers. Nothing more, nothing less. It should have been received in the generous and friendly spirit in which it was meant.

But the reaction of the local iwi Rangitane was almost embarrassing in the offence that was taken. They were going to leave a powhiri unless an apology was received.

Do iwi leaders feel so insecure they can’t take a compliment?

What was even worse was the accusation, firmly rejected, that the Dutch team were also disrespecting the haka during a warm-up sequence before training.

Does the search for offence know no limits?

Every culture, every country has its traditional dances.

In Spain, they love to share the flamenco.

If a New Zealand football team, or indeed any group of New Zealanders in Spain, was videoed stomping their feet and clicking their fingers above their head do you honestly believe any Spanish community leaders would be threatening a diplomatic incident the way Rangitane leaders reacted?

Let’s not forget one of the most popular episodes of any “Dancing With The Stars” series is the Paso Doble.

It’s a wonderful piece of Spanish dance culture given to the world with joy and fun. When ballroom dancers all around the world do a Pasa Doble do you ever hear queries about “cultural appropriation”? Of course not. Spain is privileged to share its dances with the world and don’t even mind if some of those performing are not very good and have a laugh about it. Similarly, the Highland Fling and Scottish Country Dancing has been sent to the world to be enjoyed by thousands of non-Scottish participants.

You never hear complaints about that, not even from the rabid types at the Scottish National Party.

What’s so wrong with peoples of the world enjoying and appreciating others dances and cultures?

That’s why the offence and victimhood expressed by iwi to an innocent piece of fun was unnecessary and schoolmaster-like, as if to say tut tut, don’t do that again because it upsets us. We are special and our culture is special and only for us.

This is a big, joined-up world where modern communications ensure we all know plenty about the way others live and what are significant aspects of others’ culture.

Iwi should be flattered to the hilt that some elite Spanish athletes want to perform a tiny slither of a haka. It shows Māori heritage is known and respected on the other side of the world.

The world would have a lot less tension if we all stopped being perpetually offended.

Writer and broadcaster for half a century. Now watching from the sidelines. Subscribe to Peter William's Substack here

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