New Zealand II.I

Good day to you,

I regret not taking the time to update this more often with whats been going on because then, posts like these, seem like long tirades. The most important thing (and also a reason for not updating sooner) is that I am presently in New Zealand again!

Built perilously over a fault

I came to New Zealand last year for a long wander, my first trip on my own outside Europe – though I know a lot of people will say that i have a 24 hour plane ride just to go to Scotland. Well I can tell you New Zealanders are probably a lot friendlier than your average Scotsman. If you visit, that is what will hit you about this country. With the exception of the immigration service, New Zealanders are very very friendly, like England (or more specifically my village) was about 10 years ago. The whole country does feel like its in something of a backwards time warp at times however, and this strange sense of isolation  can be at once refreshing but also horrendously alienating when you get home.

Being away from the country for so long though gives you a great perspective on how the world, your home nation, and your visiting nation has changed.

This time last year the Deepwater Horizon Spill was haemorrhaging in to the Gulf of Mexico; right now, the Gulf is just about back to its pre-spill health As much as I resent the notion that what’s going on in the US counts as a momentous event for every one, right now that ludicrous talk of a U.S. default last year has suddenly become a far from unlikely possibility. Not to put too fine a point on this, but who gives a fuck about Greece, Portugal and Spain defaulting when there’s an increasing chance one of the biggest dynamos for the World Economy is going to sneeze. I don’t think the US government will default, but it is puzzling to watch them dance with the issue when all this showboating for an election in 18 months time is damaging the lives of the people whose votes they need.

In England, the perspective has changed in that the Fourth Estate has come under sustained attack since I have been away, and had to study it from so far away. The News of the World, goodbye but not necessarily good riddance. I’d be the first person to point out that most of the News of the World was a pile of crap – fake sheiks luring people into traps isn’t good journalism. But uncovering massive cricket corruption is. The rest of the newspapers in the UK, while far more vicious and virulent than anything in the rest of the world, are starting to get jittery from superinjunctions and other news outlets breaking those superinjunctions online in other jurisdictions. People don’t want to pay for what they can get for free online either, so the digging techniques have to become craftier. Wikileaks characterised 2010 and I personally don’t think that leaking those thousands of cables was that big a deal, since it only confirmed what the world had taken good guesses at already. But when you start hacking into the phones of families whose members have been killed in Afghanistan or in the July tube bombs, the line has been crossed.  I can only temper my absolute abhorrence for these methods being used in a profession I love by the fact that all this came out at a time when the British people are more than spoiling for a fight and are willing to be incensed and outraged enough so that not even these previously untouchable newspapers feel they are above the law.

Especially when a bunch of these newspapers who have committed these awful practices are operated by the same family, whose tentacles of influence in the Anglophone world really need to be cut off and destroyed.

Lastly, the most significant change has been here in New Zealand. New Zealand has had a difficult past year, from the Pike River Mining disaster which was the worst in its history, to an event which needs no introduction:

These are before and after images from the February Earthquake which damaged or destroyed most of Christchurch. Thousands of people have already left the city with all the belongings they could recover, while parts of the centre of Christchurch are still no go areas for the public., New Zealand’s best news site, revealed today that the city has been hit with 7000 aftershocks since the major event, including one in June which further destabilised the area. Not to say that last year New Zealand was complacent about living on a mesh of fault lines, but the sense that the next jolt could destroy your life has definitely become a palpable feeling. Last year, it was more how I imagine parts of the West Coast of the US to be – “yes, it could be awful, but we haven’t had one in a while so we aren’t going to worry about it.” In Wellington, where the main through routes out of the city literally run on top of the faults, the idea that in a strong earthquake or tsunami the citizens are at risk from multiple hazards has entered into the fore of the public’s conscious – The Civil Defence Agency carried out a drill a few months ago and all the pharmacies on Lambton Quay have disaster checklists prominently displayed – even the offices now have 3 day emergency survival kits prepared on every desk.

Last year both New Zealand and the UK were having bright moments in this season, anxious for the rugby or summer holidays, anticipating what was going on in the world. England has been superficially scarred by the severe unrest over the winter and the erosion of public trust in its institutions, uncovering more and more mistakes and complacency and eviscerating every culprit in full stare of the media. New Zealand however, is more anxious, having fully realised that the wonderful society they have built in this temperate paradise can be so easily destroyed, with no warning and nothing they can do about it apart from preparing to survive and rebuild, hoping that Nature does not unleash its wrath during the Rugby World Cup, an event they have been waiting for what seems like all time. The United Kingdom is seething and New Zealand is nervous – I, as a local to one and a visitor to the other, feel both.


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