Monday, October 03, 2005

New Zealand mythology

An interesting discussion on Saturday about the stories we tell and hear about New Zealand resulted in some insights:
  • Every people group in Aotearoa has an immigration story. Everyone originally had to make a big decision to get here. Those stories are all about choice, and risk.
  • The Fred Dagg image is getting less and less relevant as NZ society becomes more urban, and rural society becomes more sophisticated.
  • Paradoxically, the number 8 fencing wire myth will always be told, because largely it's true: we as a nation tend to do more with less. Lord of the Rings is a great example of this: everyone got in and just did it.
  • An interesting insight: many NZ films are told through the eyes of a child. Is this a sense of us as a culture still being in the years of late childhood? Are we entering into a teenage phase? Is that why we still have a bit of the cultural cringe, and want to be like other countries?
  • More on the child-as-seer: perhaps it's to recapture a sense of identity that's been lost. Often the child is the character who's forced to see reality, which adults then deny. The child has a better sense than others of what's really going on?
  • Pakeha are struggling with a sense of rootlessness. They see the Maori renaissance and acknowledge it as a good thing, but at the same time feel displaced. I spoke with several people about this (all pakeha, interestingly. Where are the brown faces in screenwriting?) and we all tended to agree on this. I thought it was just one of my hobby horses ;)
On this last point, I see it as being a sense of shame for past wrongs that pakeha have committed collectively. However, ours is ignorant shame. We don't really know or seem to care much about our history (although the production of docos like Frontier of Dreams indicate there's some interest).

When I did my Western History odyssey this year and last, I discovered a whole heritage that I only knew in shady forms. I could understand why people were so proud of the British Empire - what a club it must have been to belong to!

And I believe it's important for people to understand both sides of the story, because if you just tell one side, you're setting someone up to believe the other side when it's told, and feel betrayed by the telling of the first.

This line of thought led to Tony and I having a very interesting discussion about the Germans. Tony lived in Germany for a decade, including the time when the Berlin wall fell. Even then, young people, who hadn't even participated in World War 2, had a palpable sense of duty to ensure the horror of the Holocaust never happens again. They experienced shame and guilt, but it was based on knowledge. It wasn't just the kind of shame and guilt that doesn't go anywhere, it was constructive. I'm making generalisations here; of course some will experience this shame in an unhealthy way, while others will try to revise history and become neo-nazis. But generally it drives them to learn their history and take the lessons to heart.


Post a Comment

<< Home