Monday, November 12, 2007

life is very different / when you are in a crowd

Its exhilarating being back in Asia again after almost a month in Auckland and simply getting off the aircraft at KL International was enough to feel the rush…the faces, the languages, the mass of it all.

A month in New Zealand is almost enough to dull my senses but you never lose the feeling there that something is missing. I love Auckland, and had a total ball, of which more sometime soon, but all it feels so damned mono-cultural. Not as mono-cultural as Australia, a land in which the non-whites seem only to be allowed entry so the elite can proclaim, self righteously, how cosmopolitan they all are, forgetting that there is an ongoing reason why it’s indigenous souls are in such a sorry state…you, as a people, suffer two centuries of murder, displacement, abuse, and the wholesale theft of virtually everything you sit on of value (or have given birth to) and see how dysfunctional your society would be. A couple of us mused recently that if John Howard announced compulsory protective camps for all Aboriginals “for their own good”, there would be an overwhelming murmur of ascent in the great southern land.

But NZ feels mono-cultural only a little less. For all its Pacifica and Te Reo, New Zealand is a very white, and increasingly so, if not in skin colour but attitude, society, with the common target for almost all races being that perfect white ideal as portrayed by the magazines and the TV. And for all the derisive comments made about the average (who does, of course, not exist) American’s global ignorance, many “kiwis” are, despite still having some way to go, aspiring to the same level of ill-informed xenophobia. Listen to any talkback, or watch TV news and tell me it ain’t so.

Try telling folks you live in Bali and watch the reaction. The world view is perceivably getting narrower in these TV2 times. After a brief, rather exhilarating burst of global curiosity a few years back, the retreat is obvious when you jump back in for short bursts.

All the fuss about terrorism in the Bay of Plenty, whatever the substance of the charges (and lets be real, NZ’s police force has not had a terrifically good record in recent years for being open and even handed..that mono-cultural focus mentioned above often is even more focused, and coupled with narrow bigotry in a force like that, by it’s very nature) was an eye opener, if I needed one.

The swathe of Maori-phobic comments I encountered from middle class New Zealanders, of all races, really shocked me when I arrived a few days after the arrests. The only recent parallel I could draw on was the aftermath of Don Brash’s speech in Orewa, a ramble that could really have been distilled down to two words, for the same effect: “Fucking Maoris”. And of course as a mass, many New Zealanders, good keen men and women all, rose up and screamed “Yeah! Fucking Maoris”. Of course for Mr Brash to couch his rallying cry in the cloak of a “political” speech gave it some mass legitimacy, especially from the media.

But, all that ranting aside, It’s quite a buzz to step back into the world again.

KLs a funny place..caught somewhere between it’s past and trying to figure out what it’s future is. On one hand there are monster malls, hi-tech parks, hi-speed trains and swathes of free hi-speed internet connections; and on the other it’s tear gassing its citizens for daring to have an opinion and actively discriminating against its racially Chinese citizens (many of whom have been there longer than time is able to record) because they control the nation’s wealth. And just to confuse matters more, it now offers its youth, completely free, income assisted education anywhere in the world. It can't quite decide what it wants to be.

And the, even free, cutting edge and absolutely everywhere…which brings me back to Auckland again.

What seems increasingly obvious though is that the pace the planet is changing at is increasing. You can apply Moore’s law to far more than processing power these days. And what is also hits you when one returns is that NZ, as buffeted as it is by its enormous established wealth (only four million people, almost no natural resources and you are moaning about that standard of living???) is slowly but obliviously slipping behind the rest of the developed world (and make no mistake, many of those so-called “3rd World” nations define developed now) as they gallop along doing the Moore multiplication every 18 months or so. You have to ask how Singapore and Malaysia can both offer free public access Wi-Fi almost everywhere when you can't even pay for a decent connection in much of Auckland. New Zealand has gone from decidedly first world to being a technological backwater in less than decade, and it’s quite noticeable…slow internet, no hotspots, ludicrously expensive 3G and GPRS, a real lack of tech retailers, etc.

Lots of nice expensive cars though…..

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Simon, I think you encapsulated the expats return to NZ brilliantly. I feel exactly the same when I go back to Auckland.
NZ seems to be left behind by the internet and technology. When other countries cellphones gets better download speeds than the average NZers broadband service - the problems are telling...