Commentary and Philosophy Non-Fiction posted May 15, 2019

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What you might not know.

In Praise of New Zealand

by LisaMay

A little squiggle at the end of the world: NEW ZEALAND.

Another name for it is Aotearoa, the Maori word for ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’ – but our indigenous people might think it should be translated as: ‘Land of the Wrong White Crowd’. Colonization brings consequences.

Overlooked, misunderstood – you think we are Aussies, but we can lead the world in global acclaim on our own account. We are legends in our own lunchtime: so good at modesty. We don’t shout and flap about. Our national icon is a drab, flightless bird – the Kiwi. But we fly on innovation’s wings. We soar in isolation.

We love our women and respect their contribution. In 1893, we were first in the world to give suffering suffragettes the vote. In USA, women had to wait until 1920.

Another New Zealander, Sir Ernest Rutherford, split the atom in 1917 – a force for both good and evil, but nevertheless, a Kiwi did it first.

A Kiwi climbed highest – Sir Edmund Hillary, in 1953, when Mount Everest was summited. Ed, still our national hero, was happy to share the limelight with sherpa Tenzing Norgay. We give credit where credit is due.

A motorcycling Kiwi, Burt Munro, sped fastest for a land speed record in 1967 on the Bonneville Salt Flats. His record in that category still stands. He was 68 years old and was riding a 47-year-old machine when he set his last record. What a legend. We're good at that sort of thing. Golden Oldies. Did you see the 2005 movie, "The World’s Fastest Indian", starring Anthony Hopkins as Burt? Such a character! 

In politics and social history, the world's first openly transgender woman mayor snd Member of Parliament, our Georgina Beyer, was elected to parliament in 1999. YES, TWENTY YEARS AGO!  It’s no big deal, we just get on with it.

We have the world’s steepest street, too – Baldwin Street, in Dunedin, where I live. It’s an uphill battle getting recognition when we’re just a little squiggle at the end of the world.

Did I tell you that we have the only mainland breeding colony of Albatross in the world?  They wanted to build an aluminium smelter near it. Tough times. Unemployment issues. It was going to save our economic downward spiral. Dunedin said, “No thanks! We’d rather have an Albatross colony.” Something to crow about, IN MY CITY!! You can see why I like living here, why I am proud. Conservation wins!

With Jacinda Ardern, a young mum, as our current Prime Minister (oh my gawd, a woman!!), we pirouette on the periphery of the world stage: Coming of Age. Our brave new world of coalition, diversity of opinion and divisions to be negotiated with respect. We lead from the wings of our flightless bird on this world stage. We punch above our weight.

I saw a bumper sticker the other day: "Land Rights for Homeless Left-handed Gay Whales who are Depressed Immigrant Single Mothers and Veterans." Well, I didn't really, but I might have. That sums it up down here. We care.

2019: We just had our first hate-based massacre. Bye bye daydream. Hello mainstream.


Author's Note:
I was born in Australia and still hold an Australian passport, proud of my origins, but I have lived in New Zealand since 1982 and consider it my truer heartland with values closer to my own: those of inclusivity, embracing diversity, and a strong connection to the environment.
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