What is on the mind of New Zealanders? According to the Herald on Thursday 7th June 2012, Google revealed that 'The GC', that bleak exposition of mindless narcissism and 'Target''s exposure of a masturbating tradesman were what obsessed Aotearoa New Zealand. This is what happens when a society has a dearth of ideas. It turns in on itself and revels in mindlessness. A society survives through its ideas.
A way of celebrating ideas and excellence is to give awards. New Zealand Post sponsors the New Zealand book awards and yesterday was the public announcement of the finalists. The Dominion Post managed to muck up the convenor's comments that there was so much excellent nonfiction they extended the non-fiction category to five finalists. It did however run the lists of the finalists. The Herald produced a small item, less in size than its reportage of the 'granny' who ran amok on an alcohol-fuelled flight to New Zealand. It didn't list the finalists.
I am fortunate enough to be a finalist in the nonfiction category. I feel a lot of things, but chiefly I feel thrilled. Yet I have to admit to feeling pissed off at the pathetic coverage in the news media. I recognise that pecks and sex, and a granny on a drunken rampage tickles the trivia bone but - hey - remember this concept: the knowledge economy. Remember all those editorials and op eds about how a small society like New Zealand needs knowledge and ideas to survive? (Ironically in the biz section the Herald ran a big article about how depressed Britain was increasingly dependant on its knowledge economy and the arts. Gee, thanks Independent.)
What happens when a small society like ours decides to ignore or trivialise ideas? It withers or becomes lost in bathos. Book awards should be treated intelligently, with knowledgeable, pithy and witty diagnoses of the contenders. After all, a book is in essence a collection of ideas, an exposition, a celebration.
Alternatively we can all just shut up shop and join the queue at customs. Or Google….let me see…'small minded dead end country'….