October 8th, 2007

New Zealand

On a decade outside my homeland.

Well, today is the tenth anniversary of my move to Australia. We visited Australia for the first time in January 1997, to visit my aunt and uncle who'd been living on the Gold Coast since about 1993. When we went back to Raumati Beach, Mum decided it was time for a change, so late on 8 October 1997, we landed at Brisbane airport to start a completely new life. It's funny how time can really fly. On 29 June next year, I will have lived exactly half my life in both countries; I suppose I effectively already have now, and I certainly did a lot of really important intellectual growth on this side of the Tasman as opposed to the side I was born on.

I honestly don't really know how I feel about this. For a while, I've really wondered about my national identity, and the strong British and American influences through the mass media and Internet don't really make that process easier. I will always be a New Zealander, of course; I love the country's beautiful landscapes, its world-leader status as far as progressive politics go, and its enchanting railways. I take pride in the country's achievements and I'm deeply interested in its history, to the point that it will likely be an important part of my future academic pursuits. But what do I really have as far as culture goes? What context do I come from? When I go back to New Zealand, each time I feel like I fit in less than I did last time. The only shred of readily identifiable Kiwi culture I have is the rugby thing. Oh, and I suppose the progressive politics, which were internalised from an early age. As for Australia, I very much appreciate living here, I'm quite comfortable and certainly I think I've been able to achieve more than had I stayed in New Zealand. That said, I still often feel like an outsider on Australian culture, often an interested outsider but an outsider all the same. Even though I'm a citizen, I don't consider myself Australian; that said, I have been known to refer to it as "my country" on occasions, and I think you can fairly do that when you're a resident and thus a participant in the contemporary scene. Apparent contradictions are quickly reconciled when you realise just how much crossover there is between New Zealand and Australia anyway. We have our differences, but they're often exaggerated and the similarities overlooked. Now, I've never been to Belgium, but from what I've heard of its regional divisions, Flanders and Wallonia have much, much less in common than my two countries that are separated by 3,000km of ocean! Hell, we probably have more in common than some parts of the US do with each other.

I don't know where this is leading. I was just thinking about what it means when I say I'm a New Zealander, what it identifies. Rugby? Progressivism? I suppose that's a culture. It just feels diluted, like my identification is weak, that I'm an outsider wherever I am. Maybe that makes me more neutral; maybe it's a good quality. I suppose that if I'm going to do academic work on New Zealand, I don't want to be biased by patriotic fervour anyway - which is why I'll stay far away from any kind of rugby history! It'd all just be "we're the best, here's some apologetics regarding certain losses, oh yeah and we're the best, don't get in the way of the All Blacks or we'll eat you for breakfast". What I think is the biggest shame is that while in New Zealand, I only loosely experienced our surprisingly rich music history; I became fully conscious of it only from about the age of 17 on. And that was primarily the fault of a Minnesotan, screendoor3! Heh. Make sense of that one.

Well, there's some directionless pondering. After yesterday, I was too damn embarrassed and disappointed to wear an All Blacks shirt, so instead I got out my Wellington Hurricanes one instead. Damn, I really miss Raumati Beach sometimes. It'd be nice to walk out and look at that island rather than just the sprawling inner suburbia of bland sixties flats and somewhat older and nicer houses. Well, at least this inner suburbia is redeemed by the trams, unlike Brisbane.

Aotearoa, rugged individual
Glistens like a pearl at the bottom of the world ...

- Six Months In A Leaky Boat by Split Enz

Have a good one, folks.