at the end of january, while i was immersed in transmediale, i noticed a little furore in the nz media over comments made by eleanor catton while at a book festival in india. the young writer had the audacity to criticise the nz government! the over-reaction from politicians and media was odd, since she did nothing but exercise her freedom of speech and in fact spoke the truth when she described the current government as being "neo-liberal, profit-obsessed, very shallow, very money-hungry politicians who do not care about culture", and said "They care about short-term gains. They would destroy the planet in order to be able to have the life they want."
key was quick to dismiss her comments - essentially on the basis that she's not someone important like an All Black or a political reporter, and what's more she's associated with the Green party, so her opinions are obviously biased and of little concern to mr key. he wisely didn't attempt to refute or disagree with what she said, but journalist sean plunkett got strangely hysterical, as if his lover had been insulted, and called eleanor catton "an ungrateful hua" and a "traitor". naturally, hua was misheard around the world as "whore". catton's father - a former professor of philosophy - then stepped into the debate to say that plunkett's over-reaction was disappointing when all his daughter was doing was expressing a reasonable critical thinking.
things seem to have died down now, although catton herself is still not making any media comments. it really is disappointing to see how juvenile some of the mainstream media in nz can be, with this kind of knee-jerk reaction, and i feel for catton as a young artist who has been thrust into the public eye, had the courage to express an opinion, and then been childishly ridiculed for it. like catton, i too often feel like an uncomfortable ambassador for new zealand - i constantly meet people around the world who are in awe of some idealistic notion of new zealand and want to rave to me about what an amazing place it it is. green, free and democratic, healthy and wholesome ... not any more! not under our neo-liberal, profit-obsessed, very shallow, very money-hungry politicians who do not care about culture. exactly as catton said, they only care about short-term gains, which is why they are opening up national parks to devastating mining, selling off our marine reserves to risky deep sea oil exploration, encouraging methane-producing intensive dairy farming, failing to adequately invest in public transport and so much more. they are recklessly destroying the environment in pursuit of monetary profit and it makes me uncomfortable and even ashamed to say that i am a new zealander.