Thursday, 19 November 2015

John Key, shrugging

New Zealand has reached a very strange moment in its political life.

On one hand, we've got the natural conclusion of the New Zealand politician: John Key, shrugging. That's it. That's all anyone in New Zealand ever wanted from their leaders. Forget Kirk's rousing, blood-pumping bootstraps-with-compassion speeches, forget Lange's wit and intelligence, forget Savage's implementation of policies that make pre-Labour New Zealand look like the wild west. Forget even Clark's centrist, evenhanded, cautious approach. What we've always wanted is a man so indifferent to the needs of his countrymen that he can't start a sentence without lurching it out of himself with a shrug of the shoulders.

This is what we like. Has the Auckland housing market eaten itself? Nah, it's not too bad. Does New Zealand have thousands of children going to school hungry? Nah, it's fine. Have my ministers been doing dodgy deals? I don't think New Zealanders really care about that. This is it -- New Zealand's political personality embodied in one cynical, jiggly-shouldered man. We (apparently) pride ourselves on innovation and doing things on our own, but in reality we're just cobbling stuff together and shrugging away any resulting workplace fatalities. We'd like to think we're laid back but really we chastise anyone who raises any concerns. It's less "She'll be right" than "Don't be a little bitch." John Key's shrugs and indifference tell us he doesn't care and neither should we, and we like that.

And, yet, oddly, on the other hand, he does care. He cares so much that he got Campbell Live taken off air. New Zealand's Prime Minster got a current affairs show yanked off a private broadcaster due to its politically troubling content. He cares so much he believed Campbell Live had it in for him and his government -- never mind that Campbell used to regularly wind up Helen Clark. He simply thought John Campbell was being a prick, and put the hit out on his show. One can make all sorts of comparisons to police states and communists and censorships and whatever else -- but that would only raise the blood pressure and the spectre of caring too much.


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