The government has this algorithm called real me. It constitutes one’s entry key to a number of services: passports, IRD etc. It can even be used by banks. The terminology is unfortunate, making physical presence, whakapapa etc. secondary and unreal. It must have been dreamt up by someone with psychotic tendencies.

Recently I received a no-reply email stating that my real me needed to be updated – an interesting concept – and a dreadful battle with the algorithm began. Filling my name, address, date of birth etc was not a problem but the algorithm wanted a photo which it judged satisfactory. You can try and do it via the algorithm, following the advice of someone called Sarah. She smiled nicely, but then cut me off after a couple of failed attempts. Your times up, Buddy, or words to that effect. Go to a photo shop. But the next morning the algorithm had forgiven me and allowed a further attempt. I even got a photo accepted but then had to follow a video exercise of Sarah nodding, shaking her head and opening her eyes wide. Somehow I failed – perhaps I nodded when I should have shaked and once again I was banished. Sarah was still smiling however.

When I had to renew my passport I’d had a photo shop in town take what had been a satisfactory photo which I could then upload, so I went to see Stewart and had a photo taken, but then realized I didn’t know how to upload it. I rang up real me and after waiting 45 minutes spoke to a real person who was puzzled by my question and went off for five minutes to try and find the answer. Alas, there wasn’t one. Only the AA could take a photo of the real me and upload it to the algorithm. Why? I asked. No one knows.

The next day I went into the AA shop only to find that the young woman there couldn’t take such a photo because she hadn’t been trained to do so and the person who had was off work sick. I’d have to drive to Hokitika. The theater receptionist who used to work for them whispered to me, The training only takes five minutes. At that stage I understandably flew into a rage and have been wondering why the state creates a psychotic framework? Who in the state does it and why?

On the subject of real me, let me take a detour into the realm of the tangata whenua where an interesting debate is taking place. To be Māori  requires whakapapa. That’s a simple equation. Act Party leader, David Seymour has whakapapa so is a real Māori , but suddenly Willie Jackson is saying Seymour is not a real Māori  because he hasn’t Māori  values. That seems to be a tricky concept. Aryan but also a believer in the Reich in order to be German in the 1930s? Even trickier when National suggest the right of 3 days in hospital for a post birth mother, and a Māori  woman spokesperson for Labour won’t sign up to what would seem valid in terms of whanaungatanga.

Tired of the sticky swamp of post modernism I read a biography of Tolstoy and come to his middle-age spiritual crisis when he battled to reconcile faith and reason. I’m not a stranger to the debate personally, having always envied those with faith, but found reason intrusive enough to make faith impossible. And then Tolstoy’s rendering down of the gospels… Of course virgin births and raptures are nonsense, but what is left that reason can accommodate? Here are Tolstoy’s ‘commandments’.

Don’t be angry – more generally, resolve any psycho analytic shit.

Don’t be lustful, or entrepreneurial or imperializing – that whole energy field.

Don’t get tangled up with commitments to authorities that will determine your future behaviour or choices. For example, don’t join the army because it might mean you end up having to kill people. It is an anti state sentiment.

And then ‘the turn the other cheek of non violence’ and ‘the love the enemy’ of pacificism.

Tolstoy had of course no experience of bourgeois liberalism and capitalist technological development, nor of the proletarian attempts to use the state for the advancement of the working class: welfare state, free health and education, workers rights etc. His grappling with social justice issues was then problematic. Gandhi was similar in this regard. Yet there was a moral imperative and energy that was phenomenal. Real me, in comparison, is pathetic.