of pony tails and other global tragedies

If there is one thing that makes me cringe it is the sheer desperation of our journalists to be relevant in the world. Whatever big news story occurs around the world, our journalists seem fixated on finding a ‘New Zealand connection’, no matter how obscure, so that we can also wring our hands and share our grief or claim our achievements on an international stage. So that we too (or at least the name on the byline) can be internationally relevant. Yes any New Zealand connection has local relevance, but it is one of many parts of the big story; we should never try to make it all about us because it just looks like we have a massive inferiority complex. That we are always desperate to photobomb someone else’s moment.

I do not feel an inferiority complex about being a New Zealander. I quite comfortably accept that we are historically a new country, that we have a very small population by international standards and that we are quite remote from most of the world. If I did not feel comfortable with that I should emigrate and join the larger world as so many other New Zealanders have done. I feel no ill-will to them, everyone should live where and how they feel most comfortable. But what makes me cringe are the hand-wringers who stay in NZ and just want to continually self-congratulate to the world that we ‘box above our weight’. Yes maybe we often do, but let others say that about us, and they do. When our athletes, businesspeople and others achieve international success, we do get international recognition. But self-promotion is just  embarrassing and tiring. And frankly it is unkiwi. To the outside world, if it is even noticed, it may be bemusing but no doubt also a little tiresome.

What we have not had in this country, that I can recall, is a decent political sex scandal. USA had Clinton, Italy had Berlusconi, France has Hollande; to say nothing of the dearth of celebrity sex scandals. But now at last our Prime Minister has been outed for tugging playfully on a waitresses pony tail, in a public cafe, which he regularly patronised with his wife. Familiarity and joking with staff being a regular part of the Key experience in this cafe. None of this is particularly eyebrow raising; certainly it is consistent with the informality that has made John Key one of the country’s more popular PMs.

However when he realised she had taken offence he apologised and presented her with wine by way of reinforcing the apology. But this particular waitress, in the words of her employer, ‘had very strong political views’ and so this woman of strong political views subsequently published an article on a left-wing blog site exposing the PM’s inappropriate, implied sexual, behaviour to the nation and the world. Again that is ok, that is what political opponents do to each other. Part of the political game. The PM needed to learn that he should check on political bias before being playful.

The mainstream media picked this story up and spent considerable resource in maximising exposure for the ‘scandal’ and that is when I started to cringe. Again! The local media then rejoiced in the recognition that a handful of other newspapers around the world picked up on their journalistic exposé

Really? From newspapers that regularly deal with their own quite significant sex scandals involving politicians, actors and socialites, did they really think this was a credible sex scandal? Or were they just a little bemused at little New Zealand once again hand-wringing over some insignificant, politically hyped-up incident in a public cafe and presenting it to the world in a way that says: “we share your shame with Clinton, Berlusconi and Hollande. We too have been rocked to the core by a major sex scandal. We are therefore internationally relevant.” Our journalists are even tagging it ‘Ponytailgate‘  through a delusional belief that this exposé ranks alongside Woodward and Bernstein’s Watergate investigation. How totally embarrassing. Cringe.

I want to tell the world that is just our media, it is not us. This is not the view of the normal Kiwis who are generally happy with, and getting on with, their lives. We will deal with this issue locally, it is not worthy of sharing with the world. If we collectively think it is serious enough, we have an election to express our views; we are a democracy. But right now we do have more serious concerns. Our level of domestic violence is tragic. The level of class A drug abuse is frightening. The rising dollar making our exports more expensive in overseas markets which, combined with falling milk prices, will have significant impact on our economy over coming months. Meanwhile we are still trying to pay for the rebuilding of a city.

Can we please just put the “Maaahmmm…. John pulled my pony tail” whine into perspective?

Ironic Café Dunedin. Just being playful 🙂


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