So I definitely have a love/hate relationship with America and Americans. Some things they do – claiming to be the land of the free when their civil liberties are a joke, insisting on the right to bear arms (bare arms I am ok with), and leading the world into insane wars on the most unstable of grounds ever – drive me absolutely and ballistically crazy. But, there are other things about America I love. A world without American films and TV would be unbearable for me. It is one of my favourite countries in the world to visit – the top 3 places I most want to go to in the world are all in the US (for those interested: Montana, Chicago, Comic Con). And, there are particular things that I think us Kiwis could learn from our American compatriots. What are they? Here goes:
Celebrating success: one of the things that drives me nuts about our lovely country is our inability to get over Tall Poppy Syndrome. If we think someone is getting too big for their boots then we let them know it. Sure, you can be famous – but don’t be too famous or we will be all ‘Whatever, you think you are SO awesome’. Come on people, being successful, especially in the entertainment industry where tall poppies get cut down the most, is no bad thing. It puts our wee country on the map in a most fantastic way. In America, success like this is massively celebrated – and maybe too much so. But there has to be a middle ground somewhere. A middle ground that says a kid can say they want to be a famous film director or actor or singer when they grow up and they won’t be mocked for it. Come on NZ, we can do it. Let the poppies grow I say.
Appreciating history: America’s history isn’t a lengthy one, but I would say most Kiwis know more about the American Civil War and the Constitution than they do about the Maori Land Wars and the Treaty of Waitangi. Sure, we have Hollywood to thank/blame for that as there is nothing they love more than a rousingly patriotic American history movie. But movies aside, just in their day to day lives Americans seem to appreciate and acknowledge their history way more than we do. If I have to hear one more Kiwi say ‘we don’t really have a history and what we do have isn’t very interesting’ I will whack them over the head with a waka. I studied New Zealand history at uni and it was utterly fascinating. We had civil disobedience at Parihaka before Gandhi made it famous. We had complex, horrific and mindless wars over land, blankets and muskets. We had treaty negotiations fraught with misunderstanding and double-crossing. We have JUST as much if not more interesting history as the States does yet we struggle to even find a way to celebrate our national day. Surely we can manage that?
Dating culture: Americans are all about dating. Guys ask girls out on dates ALL THE TIME. And vice versa. It is no big deal. In New Zealand though – my god it is like the hardest thing in the world. Getting together is more about drunken meetings in pubs or a slow and painful progressions from being friends to more than friends (usually assisted by a drunken incident of some kind). The only place where ‘dating’ is the done thing is via the internet – and I have no problem with internet dating per se, but would rather we could learn from the Yanks and build dating into our day to day offline lives. Given that my invention of a forehead sign that immediately displays either ‘Unavailable’, ‘Interested’, ‘Not interested’ is a long way from being reality, a lot of humiliation and mortification could be averted by being more open about dating. And I am not just blaming the boys here, it goes both ways. That said, if anyone has any clever ideas for how we can get the forehead sign to work, I am all ears 😉
It is easy being green, Mr Key: I never in a million years thought that I would be saying we could be more like America when it came to our approach to the environment and climate change – yet, here I am doing just that. About a month ago Barack Obama came out with his wide ranging and practical climate change strategy. You can read more about it here. He had been promising it for a while, and it didn’t let us greenies down. He did this despite pressure from big oil and corporates in general to leave well alone, and despite already being roasted for other things (PRISM, anyone?). It was a ballsy move and all power to him. Great, I thought. Johnkey won’t have a leg to stand on now – he will have to follow suit. But has he? Nup. And I don’t even think any journalists even bothered to ask him what he thought about it. EPIC FAIL New Zealand media (add that to your list of epic fails for the year so far…). I have ranted before about how slack New Zealand currently is on this issue – especially for a country that portrays itself as 100% pure. Sure, individuals and corporates will make this a priority even if the government doesn’t, but a little bit of government support would be useful.
So there you go, a few areas where I think we can learn something from our cousins in the land of the free and brave. They might be loud, rude and a little too in your face sometimes, but that ain’t always a bad thing…