>>This post has been updated<<.
Is it me or is there a lot of simmering anger percolating in NZ? A church puts an “edgy” advert on a billboard in order to promote thought on the meaning of Christmas and it gets attacked Â and vandalized four times while bible-bashers and fundies go ballistic in the blogosphere defending the attackers and condemning the perceived insult. The government allows a (not “the”) Maori flag to fly alongside the conventional national (post-colonial) standard, and people go bat crazy over the”affront.” Words and phrases like “traitor” and “real patriot” get thrown about, and even otherwise civilized commentators set to ranting in invective-laden terms. Meanwhile news reports speak of increased violence throughout the land, many times within families and whanau , but not exclusively among the poor and disadvantaged. Contrary to NZ’s supposed reputation, tales of corruption high and low are now almost daily occurrences (be it nepotistic or corporate). Were one to just read the press, racial and ethnic conflict is the norm (understanding that press coverage does not lead but responds to public perception). Drink driving blitzes nab dozens of people on the piss (in spite of blanket coverage caution messages and a host of cheap or free driver services), parties degenerate into riots for trifling reasons, bullies continue to thrive, acts of senseless stupidity of various sorts are carried out on the streets and roads by quick to rage groups and individuals, and the “me-first, the hell with the rest” attitude permeates social discourse and interaction–all during what is supposed to be the season of peace.
What is up with that? New Zealand may have problems, but it it is a country with no real enemies, a benign climate, spectacular scenery and ample natural resources, an egalitarian social culture, and a traditionally Â “can-do” attitude and spirit of volunteerism. It has no existential threats, a history of (pretty) good ethnic relations, a preference for tolerance, compassion and understanding, and, perhaps until recently, a record of good governance and political transparency. All of these traits are considered to be the exact requirements for peace and social stability, and in fact are considered to be the best insurance against social disharmony and anger.Â
And yet, NZ is exhibiting signs of a polarised society stretched at the seams. This is more than annoyance at “dole bludgers,” ” troughers” and assorted easy to scapegoat miscreants and “others.” It does not seem to be entirely related to unemployment rates, arguments about climate change, or concerns about immigration. It is more than being fed up about political correctness or neoliberalism (although both may contribute to the syndrome). Instead, this appears to be an increasingly generalised symptom of a pervasive malaise deep at the core of Kiwi society. In fact, I may be alarmist but I see this as a society inching towards the end of its civilized rope. I have my own opinion as to what caused the decline (and have previously posted on it), but this recent spate of visceral anger, even if cloaked in virtuous or self-righteous terms, speaks to something darker in the NZ psyche.
So I ask again: am I crazy or is there something seriously wrong at the core of NZ society, and if so, where does it come from?
Oh, and BTW–Happy Holidays!