Dirty, Violent New Zealand

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A month or two ago a single pipe in one of Fonterra’s many tentacles was discovered to be “dirty” and this was blamed for the contamination of milk, which was used in the processing of infant formula – some of which was destined for China. Dairy products being one of our main exports and China being one of our main importers, I think it is not an exaggeration to say the incident (on the back of another earlier drama) was a catastrophic blow in certain circles.

An article that appeared on Stuff, however, laid the blame on the original water supply. Dairying is a dirty industry for a number of reasons but it takes zero expertise that it involves a lot of cows, and those cows defecate and urinate a lot and this affects the land, as well as our waterways.

Cows aside, New Zealand also has around 4m human inhabitants and these people defecate and urinate like people in other nations, consume unnecessary things and burn carbon like people in other nations, and dispose of things incorrectly like people in other nations, and try to recycle like people in other nations but did you know we send most of ours to China?

It is therefore my conclusion that New Zealand is definitely not “100% Pure” – the neat slogan devised by suits in a boardroom – nor is it entirely “clean, green” which was no doubt adopted because it neatly rhymes. I think if we had a bigger population, toxic blemishes would abound. Our country does, though, have some stunning, unspoilt  spots and these kind of advertorial boasts belittle the truth. Exaggeration serves to raise people’s expectations so high that the reality is a let-down, when in fact, the reality should more than suffice.

We are a small nation at the bottom of the world doing our best to compete on the world stage and, in many areas, holding our own. Everybody knows about the rugby and that we got second in a recent, extremely exclusive sailing competition, while our equestrians still dominate (even if one’s just been accused of doping his horse!). But sports aside, I don’t believe there has to be a best or a winner; I just appreciate quality things on their own merits. Our wine, cheese, chocolate and olive oil are all up there with the best.

But enough of the positive and back to the grim. Tarun Asthana, 25, has died as a result of a virtually unprovoked attack in downtown Auckland on the weekend. A few years ago Hawea Vircoe, 36, died after a similarly undeserved assault.

New Zealand is rife with bored, stupid drunks, and suicide.

Chicago has the highest murder rate in the US but when a Kiwi who had been living there for many years returned to Whakatane and visited Kopeopeo, the scene of the Vircoe murder, she said she felt much safer in Chicago.

Sure Kiwis don’t have guns, but it seems to me that many of the murders in the US occur a) at home in domestic incidents b) on the streets between gang members/drug dealers c) by crazed gunmen in public places like schools. Sure this isn’t ideal, but it does mean that you might be able to hedge your bets and feel safe getting some McDonalds in the middle of the city on a Friday night, or walking home from the pub in a small town.

In a bid to control senseless street violence (or perhaps just control us generally), the Auckland City Council is about to introduce laws that will force all bars and clubs to close at an earlier hour (around 3 or 4am – I’m not sure what is set in stone). But, having worked in a K Rd nightclub for many years, I know for a fact that most of the people staggering around literally looking for fights –

[And I do mean literally – this is not a case of meaningless adding the word to the sentence. These people will sway around trying to meet someone’s eyes then hold the glance long enough to get a disgusted reaction then surge forward, hollering something, and if the person if stupid, they will response and – hey presto – you have a fight. It’s charming. And it’s not just the men – the women are equally capable of swearing at the top of their lungs, wailing, flailing, falling over, in their ill-fitted clothes and inappropriate shoes.]

– most of the people staggering around are not patrons of a respectable, established venue that promotes a sense of community through specialised music. They are people that have got loaded at home, or in a carpark, maybe ducked into a bar or two that would have them, then just wander about.

How about the council address the number of super lame booze shops that are now sprinkled around the CBD like spots on a toadstool – waiting to poison people with their casks of cheap wine and six-packs of fluoro alcopops?

People all around the world are calling for drug abuse to be classified as a medical condition, not a criminal one – and the same should go for alcohol. Yet curing people of an addiction won’t help if they are unhappy and see life as meaningless and joyless – hence the 522 suicides in 2010 (not sure why the latest figures aren’t yet published), compared to 68 murders in the same year.

So why are people so unhappy in this “clean, green” “100% Pure” sun-tropical nation? I think it’s boredom and a sense that they don’t have options. My suggestions would be:

  • subsidise the cost of air travel so people can see how wonderful the big wide world is and give them a reason to work hard and save hard to get out and see it! Or, at the very least, subsidise the cost of movie tickets!
  • promote all the arts in schools, through mentoring programmes from established artists, including musicians, painters, sculpters, glass blowers, graff artists, writers, actors, dancers, jugglers, gardeners, cooks.
  • subsidise tickets so the interested kids/teens/adults can afford to go and see the respective mentors perform and/or buy their work.
  • continue to build skate parks everywhere and add basketball courts and baseball diamonds (why don’t we play baseball?)
  • remove GST on fruit, veges and brown bread and get them around schools and homes. People cannot live on a diet of white bread, potato chips, and rip-off soda brands an expect to be full of joie de vivre!

In the meantime, if I were a lovely, friendly male aged between 15 and 85, I would not hang around downtown Auckland on a Friday or Saturday night and would certainly not speak – or even make eye contact – with strangers, male or female. Sad but true.

… No re-read or editing. Just had to be said. Ha!

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