Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Of Absurdities and Dreams

A change of gear perhaps.

Last night Elsje and I were invited over for dinner by some our friend’s friends. They are also immigrants, from England, and have been in Wellington for about five years. We each shared our initial experiences the place and how it’s different to home, what we miss etc. It was a really pleasant and informative exchange and really it’s the first time either Elsje or I have had a meaningful conversation with anyone outside of our immediate – and extremely limited – circle of people here.

All the while, however, I was thinking about New Zealand, the USA, England – where I lived for four years – South Africa and Namibia. I was thinking about the mostly spurious concept of ‘first’ and ‘third’ world counties that often gets bandied about when speaking about the differences between these countries. Basically I decided that the determining and equalising factor in determining which country is which is the human factor, which for me basically boils down to  'Absurdity.' What makes one country ‘first world’ and another ‘third world’ is the nature and the degree of the absurdity which permeates the social fabric. 

In South Africa I’d have to say it’s race relations. It’s the glue that gums up the gears of efficiency and makes so many well-intentioned projects grind to a painful halt, or slow to a speed which makes effective implementation impossible. Ok, there are of course, like every other country, way more problems than that, most of which are very complex and convoluted, but I think of all the other factors the race issue in South Africa is particularly unique and acute and in many cases is the root cause for many other social and political ills. It is also used all too easily and conveniently to justify some really ugly behaviour and next level absurdity. In short it is a problem which is used to simplify some very complex social, political and economic issues by reducing them a single highly emotionally charged issue and there just seems to be no getting away from it. It was at times exhausting to live there. 

New Zealand’s brand of absurdity on the other hand, like England’s, is, I believe, Health and Safety. Again, it is a concept which is used to justify stupidity and, more insidiously, a benign-seeming form of social control. Taken to its extremes Health and Safety restricts what one can and cannot do with one’s own life; how you choose to live and express yourself. It is being used as the justification (although perhaps obliquely, then again, maybe not) of the proposed Food Bill (http://uncensored.co.nz/2012/01/17/how-to-bury-the-food-act-%E2%80%93-please-distribute-widely/) as well as a host of other less overtly fascist, but equally absurd methods of social control. Ironic as it may seem, you’re actually freer in a country like South Africa; sure it’s a bit wilder and more dangerous, but that’s the trade-off it seems. 

If you fancy a laugh (sort of...) check out this link: http://www.homesafety.co.nz/  
and check out the posters under the Resources section. My favourite one isn't there, but there are some crackers. Also check out the Summer Safety tips.
Good lord, if I didn't know better I'd have to believe from this website that all Kiwis were clumsy morons. 
I never believed New Zealand was the promised land, I just thought that it would be a lot better than it is. This is not me complaining, it is me acknowledging that every county has its issues and I'm merely recognizing the need to adjust to a different kind of messed up.  :-)

So the point of this post is just to say - a lot less articulately than I would have liked - that it seems that in the world today the only real choice we have is to choose the kind and the degree of absurdity we are willing to live with and how we go about doing so. And I didn't even mention the States.

P.S. - I don't know why there is a grey background colour. It wasn't me and I couldn't change it...maybe it's symbolic...

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