By Michael Laws
Amid all the media madness that is the John Banks/Kim Dotcom miasma, an important event occurred at Waikato University this week. Doc Bogan" (aka Dave Snell) was capped with a PhD – after completing his doctoral dissertation into New Zealand's bogan culture.
Like countless doctoral graduands, Snell has allowed his study to overcome him. By its completion he had proclaimed himself to be proudly bogan and linked with two of his black T-shirted brethren to challenge the universal wisdom of Wikipedia.
In essence Doc has had enough of the world view that bogans are illiterate morons with petrol running through their veins and always being up for a root, a drink or a bit of biff. Snell points to himself as being exceptionally educated, even if he does like Metallica and has started sprouting tattoos.
Putting aside whether a postgraduate degree from Waikato truly qualifies as an example of education, Snell has certainly displayed a cunning in running with such a hypothesis. He was granted/gifted over $100,000 of public research funding to complete his studies.
And he reached the conclusion that most of us might have reached without the years of graft and citations. There is a genuine bogan culture in New Zealand, and it has customs and creeds that set its practitioners apart.
Namely that AC/DC are the high priests of a hip hedonism that comprises a sort of benign Satanism, and that dressing in black, revving the ute and sinking stubbies are manifestations. On air this past week, Snell added the tattoo and the binge drinking Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon as part of the equation too.
He is, of course, right. A new Pakeha sub-culture has arisen this past generation and bogan is not an inaccurate description. Bogans also have a great love of recreational drugs but eschew that life form that so resembles them: poor white trash.
Poor white trash is distinguishable by its reliance upon welfare, its desire not to have a job or family and by its minor criminal pedigree. By contrast, bogans tend to be working class, or lower middle-class, and need the nine-to-fiver to pay for their toys, tattoos, concerts and booze/drugs. But mostly cannabis. Not P, not cocaine and not all that fag emo ecstasy stuff.
And it's about this point that Doc Bogan evolves into Dr Snell because the latter is a self-admitted leftie of greenish tinge. Bogans don't do protests against palm oil or recycle their waste. They don't do peak oil or fracking unless they can leave it on the road with all the other skid marks.
They do tattoos. A form of self mutilation (sorry, self expression) that has devoured New Zealand with even greater ferocity than Facebook. For Kiwis under 30 years of age, there are only two sub-groups. Those with a tat and those about to get one. And the thing about many bogans is that they manage to convince their parents that their lives are also incomplete without one.
In essence, bogans are the new working class of New Zealand. They are distinct from the university-educated elites and they make themselves distinct from the underclass ferals. They are predominantly white because to be bogan is to need no other culture. There are Maori and Pacific bogans – but this new culture must be more important than their ancestral loyalties.
They are into motors, motor shows and all forms of motorsport. And they tend to be disproportionately heterosexual. It's not that they hate gays – its just that the idea of a gay bogan seems oxymoronic. Besides, gays like other colours than black.
It is also another reason why many Kiwis find the transition to Queensland so seamless. New Zealand might have Hamilton, Tauranga and Christchurch as bogan cities but Australia has a whole state. And AC/DC. Paradise.
At which point Dr Snell's doctorate doesn't seem quite as ridiculous as it might appear. He is academically affirming a truth. That New Zealand society has a number of cultures but that working class white folk have created their own. And what Snell is saying is that bogans are lot more family-conscious and established than the largely liberal mainstream media would wish.
Which is ironic. Because bogans, I suspect, tend to vote National when their class roots are clearly Labour. And bogans hate PC.
Which just goes to show. There's a bit of bogan in all of us.
Sunday Star Times, 6th May 2012