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On New Zealand

I have never seen a country as beautiful as New Zealand.

Its first inhabitants, the Maoris, named it Aotearoa, or “The Land of the Long White Cloud.”  The poetry of this country is not only found in its beautiful Maori name, but in its verdant rolling hills, its diverse fauna and flora, its foggy mornings, where silhouettes of water, earth and fire merge,  its brilliant violet blue lakes and mountains conceived from love and loss as told by the Maori legends.

Through many Kiwis we met modestly claimed that New Zealand is “too small and too far from everything else to ever make a difference in world politics,” this country’s short history has consistently shown its people’s commitment to remain politically, environmentally and socially active.  New Zealand was the first country in the world to grant women’s suffrage, in 1893.  It is also said that this is one of the few self-sufficient countries in the world, producing almost all of what is consumed (though some Kiwis will say that the best of everything is exported).  If all countries were suddenly cut off form the rest of the world, this would be a good spot to be at.

While in Christchurch, Diesel and I watched the Kiwi movie The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls (trailer available here).  Described by their manager as some “yodeling lesbian twins,” the Topp Twins are apparently one of the  land’s biggest comedy acts (though a bunch of burly Kiwis denied this vehemently).  Diesel and I enjoyed watching this documentary about the girls because in a lot of ways their personal and public journey as folk singers/comedy act and activists parallels that of New Zealand’s push for social and environmental causes.  The Topp Twins sang at and participated in rallies for gay rights (which led to the ’84 legislation allowing civil unions), stood behind their country’s staunch anti-nuclear position (being nuclear-free has become part of the nation’s legislation and at the same time is enshrined in the Kiwi identity), fought for Maori land rights, and joined the 150,000 Kiwis who marched in what became known as the ’83 Springbok Tour demonstrations  that tried to stop their All Blacks (national rugby team) from playing a game with the South African team,  in protest of the injustices of apartheid.

Like every other nation’s history, however, NZ’s existence is far from immaculate, and the country has dealt with moral and social wrongs, including the illegal possession of Maori land and immigration/multi-culturalism issues.  Despite the black spots along the way, I can’t help but admire the strides they’ve made towards becoming a more  peaceful, just country.  Their commitment is reflected on a smaller scale, in people’s daily lives, where recycling is a way of life (all trailer parks and hostels had recycling receptibles) and many farmers and suppliers are trying to make their business sustainable, whether they are dairy farmers, wine makers or farm-raise salmon.

So I take my hat off for  a country who despite claims of being “too small to make any difference” in the global sphere, has impacted me in a great way.

Anti-Springbok Tour Protesters

Anti-Springbok Tour Protesters

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One Response

  1. Don’t forget they have some damn fine surfing and snow as well!

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