Jedi, Punani Seekers gather by email

Two circulating email chain letters are aiming to make an impact on tomorrow's census - and the question on religion in particular.

Two circulating email chain letters are aiming to make an impact on tomorrow's census - and the question on religion in particular.

Such repeatedly forwarded messages have become a contemporary cultural fixture as the penetration of email access at work and at home increases.

Most simply contain the joke of the day, but Rich Poole's "lost generation" campaign last year tapped into the power of mail to rally and recruit, even though many of those who names were used in subsequent newspaper ads complained that they had no idea what they were enetering into.

The more widely-circulated of the two new census campaigns is going under various headlines, including 'You have no idea of the POWER of the Dark Side, young Skywalker'.

Its author, who is not identified, says question 18 of the census form deals with religion: "If, like me, you believe in no one specific religion or just simply object to answering that particular question, then please consider the following alternative …

"We are trying to encourage people to tick the 'other' box, and then fill their religion in as "JEDI" - all Star Wars fans will understand."

The author says the aim of the exercise is twofold.

" If 8000 people throughout New Zealand do this then JEDI will become an officially recognised religion, which would be a laugh, and [also] it's a bit of an experiment in the power of email, as that has been our primary means of communication."

Recipients are urged to pass the message on - by any means - to as many people as possible.

A second message campaign urges recipients to enter their religion on the census form as 'Punani Seeker'. The word "punani", West Indian slang for the female genitalia, has been popularised recently by the British TV comic Ali G.

"The goal is to establish PUNANI SEEKER as one of the top 20 religions in the country (after Catholicism, Anglicanism, Bahai et al)," the message says. "Remember every vote counts (and make sure you get the correct spelling). Make PUNANI SEEKERSHIP the fastest growing religion in New Zealand.

"And waste five years of some sociology egghead's life as he tries to assess, evaluate, analyse blah blah the PUNANI SEEKER phenomenon and the tremendous wit and charm of its charismatic prophet Ali G," it concludes.

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