An excellent piece by Graham Adams – well worth reading the whole thing in Metro, but here are some extracts:
Is New Zealand becoming the Absurdistan of the South Pacific? Graham Adams reflects on the slow unravelling of a small democracy.
Absurdistan was first used in English in the Spectator in 1989, to describe the bizarre life of Czechs in Czechoslovakia. … Lately, I have begun to feel much the same about New Zealand – that it is becoming an Absurdistan: an odd little South Pacific nation where many things have stopped making sense to many of its citizens, even those normally enthusiastic about its idiosyncratic traits and national character, which has long been marked by tolerance, egalitarianism, a sense of fair play and a willingness to protest against injustice and inequality.
Perhaps what brought it to a head was the strange election in 2014 that saw voters mightily indignant that a trio of famous foreigners came to warn us (in person or by videolink) that we were being spied on by security organisations. Instead of being grateful, many were outraged Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange were meddling in our domestic affairs.
Or perhaps it was the Dance of the Seven Hats later performed by John Key in Parliament, where he claimed to be several people at once and accountable to no one when Opposition politicians wanted to know what contact he’d had with blogger Cameron Slater. It’s possible this approach would go down well in Colombia or Argentina, where there is a tradition of magic realism, but New Zealanders are known to be a nation of pragmatists. However, in Absurdistan you can assert anything you like, apparently, and make it true.
Increasingly, we are asked to believe a multitude of things we suspect (and sometimes know) to be untrue. These include: there is no bubble in the Auckland housing market; overseas Chinese buyers are not pushing up house prices; anyone can benefit from a university education; education standards are not falling; the Trans-Pacific Partnership will be good for us (but we can’t be told what’s in it, even though 600 mostly business representatives in the US get to examine its proposals); nothing can be done about overseas tourists driving on the wrong side of the road and killing themselves and us; voluntary euthanasia can’t be adopted as a government measure because it is too “divisive” (even though more than 70 per cent of us support it in opinion polls).
Something over the past few decades has happened to New Zealand to dull our spirit for protest and political reform and engagement in our democratic process. … part of the explanation no doubt lies in the news media’s willingness to trivialise important news and indulge in what Britain’s Daily Telegraph recently described as a tendency to prefer “froth to facts; nit-picking to policy”. It doesn’t help that newsroom staff numbers have been repeatedly slashed, with senior journalists laid off in favour of cheaper juniors (and many good journalists being lured into better-paid PR), with an inevitable drop in editorial standards, including human-interest stories too often replacing analysis. There is also the relentless, senseless noise from parts of the mass media, including by “personalities” such as Mike Hosking, who brings to mind those intellectuals Lenin dubbed “useful idiots”. …
Go read the full article for plenty more!