Tuesday, April 11, 2006

What a Great Country This Is / like fuck it is

I note, with some bemusement, the story in the Herald about the failure of the website designed to lure expatriate New Zealanders (of whom I am one), back to the mother country.

It’s not really a surprise is it.

What a silly idea, dreamed up in some boardroom full of overpaid shirts trying to extract a fat fee from the government, and I’m sure it did. The only surprise is that someone was gullible enough to buy it, to think it might work. To think that those who have left might be prodded to return by this, is just silly. Even if one was to read it and take it seriously it fails. It simply tries too hard to convince the reader that something is happening and repeatedly tries to imply that New Zealand has made the jump from mediocrity to exciting. Witness the music and entertainment pages…so try hard…so “look, its all happening here”. And its all so unnecessary and thoroughly insulting to those of us who know that exciting things have always happened in New Zealand, that the only real difference now is the momentary interest the mainstream are now taking in the undercurrent. Musically, I’m still not sure if the recognition is a good thing, if the voluntary quotas achieve much more than a blanding of the centre. Certainly the “New Zealandness” of the music being foisted onto the airwaves, as the record companies direct all their efforts towards commercial radio play, seems to be lost, especially in pop. R’n’b and New Zealand’s hip hop are another matter. Try as it might, many of the urban sounds coming out of NZ do not sound like the massively polished sounds coming out of the US or the UK. It retains a na├»ve clumsiness about it and more power to that, it’s an individuality that gives it spark. And then there is Fat Freddy’s. I don’t like the music particularly but I love them for the people power it indicates, and the voice it gives to my belief that the tryhard aspect of the failing website is unnecessary. Things are happening in NZ, and they always have been and the lack of this is not the reason many have left.

One of the things that has driven many, myself included, away is intolerance. I was terrified by the failure to criticise and the acceptance by the media of inherent racism in the National Party’s election campaign last year, and the way in which so many of my countrymen rallied to the bigotry. I had hoped we developed beyond that. Any I find myself uncomfortable with the creeping mediocrity and aspiration to mediocrity that I see, and the media celebrates.

I hate the rules, the lists of bylaws that greet you as you arrive at the beach, the fascism of the road rules and the way they are enforced. I know these exist for a reason but it is the layering of these on top each other over and over again, with the myriad of other regulations and rules that neuter the soul. There are things like the mess that New Zealand’s Employment law is, administered by the overpaid, out of touch with reality, buffoons that call themselves the Employment Relations Authority who encourage a whole new industry of parasitic ambulance chasers.

Those are some of the things that drive us away.

And then there is the case of Phillip Sturm. I really should say, before I go on, I know Phillip. Not well, at all, more in passing, and I’ve never had a conversation with him beyond small talk. I should also say that I have not seen the court records and my understanding of this case comes from what I’ve read in the media and, more importantly, from people I know who are privy to the details, some of whom were witness to some of the events surrounding the alleged offending.

To say this stinks is a massive understatement. Nothing I have heard or read indicates that is anything more than good old fashioned gay bashing. Over one hundred years since the British establishment drove Oscar Wilde to an early death, on the other side of the world, in the old Empire we continue the grand tradition. Yes Sturm is guilty, but only of being a promiscuous gay male, and not a particularly pleasant, as those who know him will attest, human being. Neither crime should put him in jail for nine years. But it has in clean green NZ.

The evidence that Sturm drugged and assaulted several men is ludicrous. None of the drugs alleged to have been used by him are capable, as hundreds of thousands of highly respectable New Zealanders know, in the quantities alleged, of the stupefaction required to substantiate the charges, and the original judge was correct to toss that out. That a second trial and the appeal court overruled this indicates that the whole notion of justice is a farce in New Zealand when applied to those who don’t sit in the centre of society, who don’t play the game. I reside in a country now which the world derides for its corruption but this case went down a country which is trying to sell itself as one of the great places to live, a sophisticated, haven of lifestyle.

The whole case is an evil nonsense, and confirms the notion, that the earlier witch trial of Peter Ellis made many of us believe, that New Zealand is not necessarily a place we want to live.

And no one says a word….


Jim said...

What I fond also scary is that 90% of NZers reside in either Australia (77%) or the U.K. (13%). Those figures suggest to a herd mentality that will gravitate to familiar cultural boundaries, another particular kind of blandness permeating NZ culture. No disrespect to Australia, the U.K. or expats in general, but where's the sense of adventure?

Bob Daktari said...

mediocrity rules

tis the NZ curse and currently it threatens to strangle much of what is wonderful about this place

Dubber said...

I wasn't driven away by any of those things - or anything else for that matter. You'd have to introduce the death penalty or eradicate all public broadcasting for me to pick up and leave a place in disgust.

I've been under the impression for the last 20 years that on the whole, things have generally been getting better in New Zealand. And it had a lot going for it to start with.

As I keep telling people here in the UK who are constantly wondering 'Why on earth would you leave New Zealand to come to Birmingham?!', there's more to a place than just scenery and weather. But that cuts both ways.

I could probably list a thousand things that make me think NZ is a great place. One example: it's the only country on the planet where a citizen can legally simply turn on a transmitter and start broadcasting.

Another is the fact that despite the actions of governments and individuals over the intervening years, the nation's founding document is a partnership agreement between two peoples. We have the contractual basis on which to forge a decent working relationship - and I think things are generally headed in that direction.

But I suspect that 'how New Zealand is now' has little to do with why many of us leave. I left when I was ready to, and I will return when the time is right for me to do so.

But there's still a great deal of other things for me to do and see before I do that.

Simon said...

I guess I was a little grumpy when I put finger to key as the Phillip Sturm thing, a blatant and clear miscarriage of justice, has really irked me. That NZ seesm able to imprison him scares me a lot. I love NZ too- there is so much going on, and I guess the battle against the tide of mediocrity is what drives it. But I certainly feel a little less tethered outside the western world right now. Will I return? Dunno, time I imagine, will tell but I feel littel urge right now.

I respectfully disagree with your feeling that the race relations thing is drifting the right way. The level of middle class liberal bigotry is something I've not seen in NZ before.

We came within a whisper of Brash getting on a blatantly racially driven agenda last year.

albie said...

i enjoy reading your b log simon but it pisses me off a little, that you obviously voted or would vote for Mrs Davies, you dislike the opposition who lost the election, but you still choose to live overseas. Work that one out?
Kind of you to burden us with the crippling tax system, of NZ, which incidentally I do enjoy being a resident of but you choose to embrace the tax system elsewhere.
P.S. no offence intended

Simon said...

I guess I voted for Helen as far and away the lesser of two evils. The National Party has a less than perfect taxation record over the years and, frankly, the most agressively brutal application of taxation I've ever encountered, in my life, under the last National Government, with the IRD, under Bill Birch's precise instruction to give no quarter, driving people to suicide. It was only Hide's intervention that cause a backing off.

Living overseas..I think I've done my bit for NZ and I still identify myself as a New Zealander, I always will. I love it and my post was more about a couple of things that irk me rather than the nation as a whole. Surely you don't begrudge me the right to spread my wings a little..

However, that said, it scares me that NZers seem more willing than ever to roll ove and accept, the gumption has been bled out by the mediocrity of the media. The Sturm case would not have gone as far as it did in virtually any other Western Nation (apart from the US perhaps) without people screaming "this is wrong".

Simon said...

PS..we are still paying Tax in NZ at NZ rates...AND in Indo