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All New Zealanders | Oct 10, 2005 20:28

A very good and interesting speech by Bill English the other day. Not so much because it said anything new, nor because of the timing, but because it represents a particular line of thought about the way New Zealand's history will unfold in the future.

It's interesting the way history does that. It doesn't fall into a line along which we all walk. There's no one out there writing our future in a big book we collect somewhere along the way. Nope, instead, history kind of rises up to the front of us whenever we put a foot forward, whether that be into a stumble or not.

So while there's a number of niggly differences between what Brash and English have said over the past couple of years, they share a particular vision of what it is to be a New Zealander.

That vision is of a New Zealand based on unity, and not necessarily sameness, but probably sameness, or at least some kind of obscure filial bond brought about through time and inevitable mingling of all our waters.

Or some kind of romantic bullshit like that.

But seriously, I accept that this vision of our future is valid. There is nothing to say that, with the relentless inevitability of time, the ethnic divisions thought to plague New Zealand will fade from memory. New Zealand could well become one ethnic grouping, a new Anglo-Polynesian people.

There's a tricky thing about projecting into the future though. Something I noticed from those days of hitchhiking. The future is that point on the knifes edge of the horizon, the place you'll forever walk to in anticipation of what it'll be like when you're there. And between that place you'll want to be and the place you are now, there are a thousand steps to be made, a hundred crazy little events to get in your way, a million thoughts that will pass through your mind in the meantime.

The battle is to get to the place you anticipate, and to still be the person you thought you were when you left. And no matter how long the journey, how simple the path, how determined you are, change always get there before you do.

So how hard it will be to get an entire nation somewhere?

The probability is that the nation this vision currently holds in sight will not be what is desired. Sure, we could insist that everyone falls into line with whatever is fashionable today, but that idea is so twentieth century it's laughable. Instead, if we turn over the development of the New Zealand nation to 'the people' then it could possibly go anywhere.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not predicting we all become frightened of a Simpsonesque angry mob. Instead, I'm trying to point out that there is no way in hell we can control the development of an idealised nation in today's liberal environment. Even if we agreed on some heavy 'social engineering', the exact opposite of what Brash and English want to advocate, that point on the horizon will still not become what we want it to.

And what does that mean for our collective future? It means we can only point out a place we'd all like to be, and meander in that direction.

In my humble estimation there's a bigger difficulty though. And that's the content of what it means to be a New Zealander.

Currently, much as English points out, or as Jim Traue put a little more eloquently, what it is to be a New Zealander is very much defined by the experience of being a colonial people living in a far-flung corner of an Empire. All those ancestors of the mind are the legacy of a culture brought with us from another time and place, a similar but different context transplanted to our new home.

And then you have the other half of the recipe, Māori.

So let's continue with the argument that we're turning into a single nation. What this means is that Māori culture will be assimilated up into the majority, and become part of the fabric of New Zealand nationality. Being a New Zealand will mean experiencing a melange identity, woven from the threads of a number of cultures all brought to this one place.

There's a slight flaw in that idea though. If the cultures blend comprehensively, Māori culture won't disappear. Instead, it will in all likelihood be the feature of our culture that distinguishes us from the old, colonial past. If we do change, we will no longer be so definitively Anglo. We will be increasingly Polynesian as our point of distinction in the world.

And you know what that leads me to suspect? It's just a whisper you know. A little voice way back in my thoughts, just kind of sitting there minding its own business, occasionally making a large enough movement for me to notice.

And you know what it's saying?

Māori are assimilating us.

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Yawn | Oct 09, 2005 14:43

You know what I want to be when I grow up?


If there's one thing I seem to have done waaay too much of since coming home to Wellington is sinking [alcohol]. Not that I'm complaining mind you, actually going out and having a laugh is better than being so pov I can't afford to do anything but sit in a bean-bag scratching my belly.

And yes, I can confirm that I'm definitely a laugh-a-lot drunk. None of this surly, moody behaviour for this old bloke. Nope, you've got to put away a few beers, loose some inhibitions, badly shake your booty on the dance floor, sing too loudly to 'Come on Eileen', and wake up in the morning with a half-eaten kebab obscuring the clock radio.

Ah, the simple things.

After that intro, I'd better mention that borderline alcoholism is not the reason I've been so quiet lately. Nor have I bought myself a new game for the Xbox. I haven't been so afraid of Keith's pending reply to the Political Fisticuffs that's keeping me nervous.

Nope, it's been plain old-fashioned hard yakka keeping my fingers away from the keyboard. And I'm sure when Keith quits the second job he's had to take on to pay that legal bill, he'll be back for more debate.

Mind you, sleeping till 4pm on Saturday's is making it difficult to get enough time to write to you all, but like I say, sobriety is rapidly making itself known as a viable lifestyle alternative. Hangovers have just become so damned hard to handle...

I just don't bounce back from boozing like I did as a sprightly 20-something. As it is, I've moved into this new place and it's made of aluminium. Seriously. I saw a few of these places being built over in Oz, and I've been curious to live in one.

But take my word for it, if you get a chance to live in an aluminium-framed house? Don't. I'll be wrapped up in to shelter myself from the world, and the flatmates will be walking around upstairs a good four hours before I'm even able to form sentences. Thing is, wooden houses creak. Aluminium houses rattle. And there's almost no sound insulation. It's just, plain, weird.

So there I am, trying to not let little sounds echo interminably round my seemingly cavernous cranium, and the others in the house are walking around upstairs, listening to CDs, talking, and usual stuff. And it's like they're in the room with me.


Anyway... Hard yakka. One of the reasons for the most recent celebration was me finally handing in the final version of the thesis for marking.

Does it seem like this thesis system never, ever ends? Well, imagine being in the middle of it.

As it was I moved back to NZL because life would not happen while I ironed out the final creases in the writing. The thing was pretty much written way back in April, when I ex'd my ex-pat status. But, as seems to be the case, there were still a hundred hoops to jump through before I could finally submit.

Once the supervisors had asked me to make a number of small changes to formatting, chapter orientation, terminology, spelling, blah blah blah, I sent the final versions to two separate copy editors.

Then, once the copy editors got their changes back to me I made a number more changes, usually by sitting up till midnight typing.

Then, once all those changes were input. I ran over the entire thing looking for mistakes that the other four people had missed. And there were still a few there. Things like missed full stops in headings, or the wrong kind of apostrophe.

You know, stuff that makes for great blogging...

Then, by Friday at approximately noon I collected the three bound copies and sent them back to Melbourne.

By four thirty pm? Two pints down, big night starting up.

A good feeling really. Not only do I now have to do nothing but wait for two or three months till no doubt more changes are brought back, but I have washed my hands of the entire process for long enough to enjoy my first Christmas in eight years where I don't have 'theeeeeesiiiiiissss' mumbling in the back of my mind.

Pesky damn guilt.

Not sure what I'm going to do with all my spare time!

Might have to get a hobby.

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