Saturday, January 31, 2015
Grow up New Zealand!
Often immediately after I have led a service the very first thing I say to my wife is, "Was that alright?" She knows what I mean. I am asking, "Did I make a fool of myself?" Sometimes even after she has answered in the affirmative I will keep on asking her well into the afternoon. "Was what I did this morning OK?" She will get impatient. "What have I already told you? - Didn't you hear the people's feedback?" You see, it is just that I am insecure. I wonder if I truly communicated? I wonder if I said anything too way-out? Did I sound dumb? I fish for approval and acceptance like an insecure teenager.
We New Zealanders are insecure like that about our country. A celebrity such as a movie star, or singer arrives in Auckland and a reporter meets them later that day. "What's your impression of New Zealand?" Celebrities often visit Queenstown and central Otago, tourist areas nearby, and pass through Dunedin. The newspaper reporter searches for affirming comments about our locality. Then writes it up, "Famous celebrity loves our city". It is like we have to search for approval and acceptance. There is a Rugby League nines competition happening in Auckland. There are lots of Australian teams participating, along with their fans. Like insecure teenagers reporters are asking these Aussies how they like Auckland, or New Zealand. Searching for approval. Grow up! We do not have to be better than anywhere else. We need not compare ourselves. We are simply New Zealand. Some things are beautiful. Somethings are disadvantages. But simply - this is who we are. Learn what the celebrity does. Learn how they think. Learn about what made them who they are. But we should not have to need to search for them to say nice things about us. Often the nice things they say come across as patronising dribble anyway! Grow up.
Its OK to be criticised.
Eleanor Catton is an award winning New Zealand writer. Media have reported that when she has been visiting places overseas she has expressed criticism of New Zealand politics and aspects of New Zealand culture. She said of the government that it was "neo-liberal, profit-obsessed" and with culture-averse politicians. She criticised our appetite for "tall poppy syndrome" and the lack of respect for Kiwi writers. A radio host was outraged. . he questioned how the author could criticise New Zealand when she had a taxpayer-funded job as a lecturer. She was dismissed as a traitor. The prime minister John Key, when told about it, dismissed her saying "she should stick to writing." He tends to do that when people express disagreement. He resorts to depreciating the person, not dealing with the issues. The trouble is the superficial public buy into this sort of quick, shallow gibe. These reactions tend to indicate that she is right with her criticisms. It is right and good that we as a culture should be criticised. We are not and never will be perfect and we should value our critics rather than dismiss them. Again we are exposed as immature and insecure. It is OK to be criticised! We can learn from the dialogue and insights. Grow up New Zealand! Grow up Mr John Key!
I love New Zealand
Having criticised New Zealand I need to say that I love New Zealand. I choose to live here. I was born here and have chosen to stay here, serve in the New Zealand community and raise my family in New Zealand. I did my ministerial training in Melbourne, Australia. We lived for four years in Melbourne, enjoying the city there. There were people around the college at the time who tried to encourage me to stay in Australia. For example, one of the lecturers at the college was keen for me to continue with my studies and serve in Australia as an academic. I have had Australian Churches expressing tentative interest in me being their minister. But during college and since I have been committed to serving in New Zealand. I chose to return to New Zealand and to stay in New Zealand, and I am pleased I did. Though, like Catton, I am not happy with some of the directions taken by New Zealand politics and culture, I am still proud to be a New Zealander. (perhaps not as proud as I once was - we have in my view gone backwards - whereas once we were leaders in cultural thought, we are dragging the chain these days.) I once knew a man who was president of the local National Party. I have always voted for the Labour party, so I would enjoy rubbishing the actions of National Party politicians of the time. He once answered me by saying, "I am active in the National Party not because I agree with everything they do and say. I don't. I am active because if I am involved I can work for change and improvement. I love the party so I am prepared to be involved, work for change and criticise when I have to." I am a New Zealander. I love New Zealand ... but that is why sometimes I will challenge, stir and criticise New Zealand ways. And that is OK.