For a she’ll be right mate nation, bursting with light and life, how did New Zealanders become so attached to the dark side?
We pride ourselves on being able to do anything, to bat above our weight, knock the bastard off and then shrug off such great achievements as nothing much.
We climbed to the top of the mountain and basked in the sunshine. That was really something and we’ve had lots of moments of standing in the sunshine since, at least until we turned to black. It’s our national colour and schadenfreude our default mind-set. It’s the downside of living in Godzone.
I know it’s hard to find enlightenment, inspiration and guidance, especially from politicians – that beige brigade of faceless, silent names who sit in Parliament, bray and bellow occasionally to justify their pay but are now shaken and stirred to get out and win your vote so they can sit some more.
When I hear lads, laddettes and luddites defining the list of dos and don’ts that make a kiwi dinkum I really am in the dark wondering who we are, what we’re all about and if we have any values.
It’s my problem. I need a lightbulb moment because I don’t get how all the surveys show Kiwis as a happy bunch – a bit shy but like really friendly and easy going – and yet our culture is back to back black.
I celebrate with open arms the arrival of new migrants who did not leave their cultures, languages, nationalities, food and creeds at the airport as Winston Peters, he of the double breasted dark suit and finger wagging black wit, instructed or woe betide.
Rather than an apocalypse of the four horsemen Winston, I’m betting that our newest citizens inject energy, light and learning to New Zealand. We may soon have a soccer team worth crowing about, an even better cricket team and win Gold in badminton and table tennis. Best of all we’ll live in a rich and diverse society with new ways of looking at and seeing the world.
But, as one of God’s frozen people from pioneering Presbyterian stock, I cannot hug an Asian a day as our first woman prime minster once over enthusiastically decreed when she was no longer in a position of power and influence but hunting for new positions of power and influence. I have been hugging an Asian a day for decades. He’s my husband. He’s one of us!
I am a native English speaker, have rounded vowels, more aye that oy so now am unsuited to radio and use full sentences and syntax.
I am desperately interested in global current affairs that go beyond who’s bonking whom and I was born here. That is not a requirement for citizenship which is quite easy to attain when you have the dough and hire a PR to buy friends for you in high places and who can speak for you because you don’t speak English.
There’s no law against it and absolutely no racism or xenophobia about foreigners buying natural assets outright if you are not Chinese.
You just have to understand that two Wongs do not make it right but it would be alright for Mr Wright.
I am not some wretched nouvel existentialist who has just discovered Camus or Nietzsche. I am not searching for the doorway at Delphi where the Oracle inscribed ‘Know Thyself’ while under the influence of some mind-altering hallucinogenic.
Nor am I a despondent tall poppy who thinks I know better, and because I have done my OE via Earls Court, and my liver has survived the rights of passage pilgrimage of the top spots of Europe drinking, bull running and tomato throwing festivals by kombi van (purchased in Earls Court), I have carte blanche to be broody and whinge and obnoxiously forward in counting all the ways that New Zealand fails the litmus test of being up with the rest of the world.
It doesn’t suit my nature to constantly knock, belittle and begrudge others. I’m not interested in joining harbingers of doom, gloom and the ‘yes but’ nay sayers. And I know I don’t want to emulate the national identity our artists, writers, musicians and political and sports commentators promote of New Zealand as the land of the long, black cloud – with gorgeous scenery and bungees to spruik up the heaven on earth environment so tourists will like us.
I’m rather desperate to escape that. I am going to embrace, even celebrate, the diversity of my perversity with not a black thought, black head or black dog in sight. I am going to be little Miss Sunshine.
True confession: rugby is not my religion. I do not sink into depression when the ABs lose a test. I am not worried about Dan’s groin strain though Richie’s foot was of concern. My child did not wear baby black jerseys, suck an All Blacks’ dummy nor learn to kick a ball as a toddler as the legend goes. Sports channels are not part of my Sky package. The Arts, History and Rialto channels are.
I like many things and if rugby is your thing, you are welcome to it.
I do not think Sir Russell Coutts a black heart for winning the America’s Cup – five times in all. He was simply the best. He had the best technology, used it to the best advantage and had the best team who did not give up or choke but beat the odds and won.
We choked and lost. But we did our best – unfortunately it was second best – and we’ll be remembered in the annals of sporting history as the team that seized defeat from the jaws of certain victory.
It wasn’t our fault of course. We were overcome by a big boy with big toys even though millions of dollars from private and tax payer sponsors got TNZ to the starting line.
Doing well with bugger all is entrenched in our psyche. We treasure our Number 8 wire quick fix with what’s closest at hand mentality. Mate, that was admirable in pioneering days but we need to grow up.
Improvisation does not cut it anymore. We need genuine innovation if we are to see the light of day.
New Zealand has a big black mark against it with one of the lowest rates of patent registrations in the OECD. We spend only a little more than 1.0% of gross GDP on research and development and our economy is skewed so dangerously to primary commodity exports that when the milk price slumps so do we.
If we want to get back to black and increase employment and productivity we have to have products and services that are commercial, scalable and replicable – not just admirable. And we’re clever enough to rise to that challenge.
“Everyone’s good at something, and in our country, it’s rugby and being glum,” wrote blogger and columnist Rose Hoare. That’s tragic but you can see it for yourself in our art and “dark forbidding” painters like Colin McCahon, Tony Fomison, Ralph Hotere and Philip Clairmont.
I don’t revere or for that matter revile Colin McCahon’s paintings. Dad went to primary school with him and said he was a “queer boy”. I thought he meant he was the “God Boy” – that kid who stuck his feet in a steaming cow pat to warm them up on the way to school. It was the best bit of the whole story by Ian Cross.
McCahon’s works leave me cold and uninspired. I can’t see The Promised Land in his paintings and I just can’t believe that any other country in the world would endlessly celebrate an artist who frankly was so depressing, dark and bleak.
Our films and our literature are also perversely dark.
You can tell a New Zealand film because it always rains and has a sad ending – except for Sione’s Wedding which I really liked. Can we move on from this enervating cinema of unease please with comedies that make the hero a victim and dramas that are riddled with expletive dialogue and excessive violence to bring to life the dark underbelly of our society.
And then there’s our novelists. Oh happy day! I wish! I think Maurice Gee novels should be sold with a warning to slit your wrists before you start reading. You’ll wish you had by the end of one of his depressing liturgies of a woeful family going from bad to worse to end with the little lost boy left to die in an abandoned fridge.
I couldn’t finish Keri Hulme’s Bone People. Must be my thing about whole sentences and grammar and punctuation. I suggest she takes the publisher’s advance and sticks to white-baiting.
I was delighted to find I was not alone. I met a stranger in the street. She too did not enjoy this weighty, over structured, tell all tome. We embraced and are friends for life. We’ll also stick up for the males aged over 45 branded by Eleanor Catton as bullies for not liking her book and invite the London Evening Standard reviewer to be guest speaker at our select and exclusive book club.
“You know what it’s like when you find a book you really can’t put down? One that seems so urgent to stay with you carry on reading when you should be sleeping or working or remembering your Tube stop? A book that seems more compelling than life itself? Such a great feeling!” he wrote. “Well, Eleanor Catton’s Man Booker-winning 832-pager, The Luminaries, is the opposite — in my experience, anyway.”
There’s also a whole genre of ‘black’ music that has made a killing out of depression, pessimism and sadness. The Dunedin sound is the very antithesis of Ten Guitars and the Maori show bands and strikes no chord with the uplifting and soulful poetry of American black blues, swing and jazz.
Now we have Lorde and her tortured performances. She’s a true fashion icon from her mane of black hair, black nails and lips to her black dresses – a tribute to Paint it Black (which was written for a funeral and adopted by the New Zealand Rugby Union as the anthem for a disastrous World Cup outing).
Chanel really knew how to channel black.
We have Zambesi and Nom D, the all blacks of fashion, latterly smudging the palette with concrete, swamp and overcast.
Apparently Zambesi captures an intellectual, brooding, angsty, moody aesthetic with its no frills black ‘statements’. What do you think? I am thinking really really hard to wear deconstructionism when you want to walk, talk or sit.
Black is really practical and sensible (just like our clumpy shoes). Unlike white, black doesn’t show dirt and you can wear it for every occasion, day in and day out, from dawn to dusk, ad infinitum.
It’s no wonder that visitors to New Zealand think we are in mourning when they meet the locals dressed head to toe in funeral black, or fifty shades of grey, with a joyless demeanour to match.
Lighten up guys. Don’t fret about fitting in. Stop trying to find the dark side of the moon – there isn’t one.
We’re a gay rainbow nation now and the world loves us for it.