Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Wreck of the Rena...

It was as if the country awoke from a dream. For week on week there had been a gathering hysteria, all about a game. It is possible in such a small society to swamp it with a single idea. Aotearoa New Zealand gave itself up with a singular intensity to the pursuit of an ideal: we were a host country sharing with our visitors a national obsession.
That it incorporated issues to do with identity (shaky) and importance (debatable) only made the situation more
intense. If you did not join in, you were a piker, someone faintly suspect. Cars became adorned with flags. Flags appeared in people's windows. People paraded the streets with their faces painted in national colours.

As a friend commented 'it is actually quite frightening to see mob-like tendencies among people who seemed quite ordinary.' At her gym on Auckland's North Shore a woman challenged her on the absence of a flag on her car. 'You have to show support for our team.' My friend, who is usually studiedly apolitical, commented: 'I find it all quite horrible. One can understand how in Germany once it was understood by everyone that Jews were fair game, Jews did become fair game.'

Is this an outrageous statement? A complete misunderstanding of what is a genial occasion, a time for celebration, a
period of especial innocence? Or is there something faintly neurotic about New Zealanders' obsession with
their position in the rugby world? It is neatly sandwiched between our usual colonial obsession with the niceness of making money. The Rugby World Cup was presented by the National Government as only partly about sport. More
realistically it was a chance to kickstart a dormant economy. People began to fantasise about how much money they could rent out their houses for.

In fact the reports are that only those bars and restaurants which are in the immediate 'fan zone' are making money.
Other parts of the city - and country - have experienced the exact opposite. New Zealanders have stayed at home.
Motels have many empty rooms. The promised inflow of cash has been debatable - especially when placed side by side with the final bills (which will conveniently arrive, post election.)

What about John Key and his cynical placing an election date just after the World Cup? He has fallen in my estimation. He appears at times to be a complete fool. His love of popularity is a terrible weakness. He needs to be weaned off it.

And then Rena happened.

It was as if a tarpaulin had suddenly developed a hole and piercingly cold water began to drip, then gush on
a feverish head.

The government, caught off guard - practically speaking nursing hangovers from its endless partying and immersion in the delusory world of rugby - didn't take notice.

It took days for Key to chopper into town and try and parlay his charm.

But people were angry.

It is a very real disaster and ecology is a key kiwi value. It is beyond race - the usually divisive issue in NZ.

If there was a deus ex machina, Rena is its name: a god which appears out of nowhere and promptly changes everything.

The All Blacks may win or lose on Sunday night, but for the government, they have lost already.

The tide begins to turn.

And it is bringing in black oil.....and more and more black oil...


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