I was born and grew up in New Zealand, and although I’ve lived in Australia since 1981 I’m still a New Zealander – it’s just in my heart, and my blood, and my sensibility. I’m sure many other AWers who live outside the country of their birth would feel the same way.
What happened in Christchurch yesterday obviously hit the NZ community hard, and more so than these events usually do. Of course I’ve been horrified at all the US shootings, and the attacks in London and elsewhere. But in your own country it’s different. For a start, these things just don’t happen in New Zealand (or didn’t until yesterday). You grow up in this sleepy South Pacific outpost, which in the sixties was something of a cultural colonial backwater. Everything was imported or derived from the mother country – our values, attitudes, lifestyle, food, music, everything. Plus, nothing ever happened that made any mark on the world. And if it did we were ridiculously proud. Peter Snell winning two track gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, not to mentioning holding the mile record at the same time. And of course the All Blacks, the only NZ creation consistently at the top of their game on the world stage. It’s a different country now – for a start it’s not all white, it’s one of the few countries in the world where the indigenous population are almost up there with their colonial masters in terms of recognition and rights. And we can hold our own with musicians, songwriters, filmmakers and writers from other countries. And still be ridiculously, culturally cringey proud of those achievements.
But this sort of loony right wing ultra gun violence, well it just doesn’t happen. We’re a peaceful, welcoming people. Yeah there’s idiots galore, of course, there are everywhere, and there’s a wacky right wing political mob, but nowhere near as prominent as in Australia or the US. We recently voted in our third woman Prime Minister whose basic bloody common decency is the envy of people all over the world. That’s the kind of thing we do. Like standing up to the French government when they bombed the shit out of our Pacific neighbours and sank a Greenpeace boat in Auckland harbour, or refusing to let US nuclear ships enter our harbour. New Zealand does a lot of things really well.
And I heard today that New Zealanders this morning spontaneously turned up at mosques all over the country, in sympathy and support. That too is the kind of thing we do. It remains to be seen how much this changes the country. It will and it won’t. But right now we’re all heartbroken, because 49 people dead feels like half the population.