A recent crossword question in the local freebie newspaper was “Internationally renown fashion show staged annually in Wellington” and the answer, “WOW” (World of Wearable art.) Several points arise.
First, to clarify this, the WOW annual show pulls hordes of provincial middle-aged madwomen into the capital each year, to the delight of hotels and restaurants. It consists of models parading dressed as pumpkins and such-like absurdities but there’s certainly no “art” involved, and absolutely nothing wearable, rather it’s simply silliness for simpletons. So be it if it makes them happy.
The cringe-making bit which gets me though, is the crossword composer’s “internationally renown” assertion. Is he serious?
The show was cancelled this year thanks to the sainted one’s edict, enforcing a monastic lifestyle. Can we assume given this “internationally renown assertion” that as a result of the cancellation, they’re mourning in Malawi, grieving in Grenada and weeping in Wyoming at this dreadful catastrophe. Or is it more probable that of the circa 8 billion people in the world, perhaps 10 foreigners, God only knows why, may be aware of this WOW event?
With our small size and remoteness we’ve always suffered from an acute sensitivity, about our significance, perfectly illustrated this year with our grossly hyperbolic newspaper claims that the world’s in awe of Jacinda.
We’ve always suffered from this inferiority complex, for that is what it is. Back in 1950 as a small boy I was dragged along by my parents and with thousands of others we stood in a park and listened to a racket by a bloke called Ken Smith, playing a bloody cornet. Why? Because he was allegedly an internationally renown cornet player, this a claim with no meaningful validity. He toured the nation pulling huge crowds, all awe-struck at his totally exaggerated international renown.
We’ve grown up since and today, far from embarking on a free national tour and pulling tens of thousands of sufferers, he’d be prosecuted for disturbing the peace, and rightly so.
Three years on in 1953, again with my family, we stood on Parliament grounds with thousands of others and cheered when Prime Minister Syd Holland emerged with the Queen and Duke and announced a New Zealander had conquered Everest.
Today, the Queen turning out might pull at best 20 deranged old ladies. Most of us would say Ed Hilary was our most famous product. Nowadays, each year, thousands of people, God only knows why, are escorted up to the top of Everest and Ed’s feat has lost its lustre. It’s a nice earner for Nepal though, if I had such an urge, I’d hire a helicopter.
Kiri is internationally known in opera circles, so too the All Blacks in sporting circles. Otherwise we’re rightly insignificant. But note this. In an article on New Zealand in the weekend Financial Times a month back, a columnist remarked on our safe haven (from the virus) advantages, a point lost on our government, thus its absurdly damaging dictatorial over-reaction.
But the article went on to point out that we’re a fairly dull, low wage nation and as a consequence our best and brightest, specifically an eighth of our population, is lost abroad, never to return. It’s true. New Zealand born people in all fields of achievement, can be found literally everywhere nowadays, never to return.
This is a third world nation phenomenon, most notably in the medical field. Britain’s vaunted National Health Service would collapse without its foreign-born doctors (50%) while its nurses comprise about 60% foreign born girls. Well, we’re no different, exporting our best talent, and kidding ourselves we’re a source of envy. What to do about it, you ask?
John Key wanted to make us an international banking centre, based in Auckland. With Hong Kong in trouble that might possibly work although I doubt it as the bankers would refuse to come. We saw that illustrated during the Brexit battle. London’s vociferous Remainder faction constantly warned Britain would lose this principal foreign exchange earner to Frankfurt, Paris and Zurich. In fact, what happened was the bankers refused to shift, excepting Paris, on the grounds of boredom. With Paris, punitive taxes and oppressive regulations made that destination a non-starter.
So we’re essentially a rather bland breeding ground of talent for the rest of the world. Does it matter? Probably not, but it does lead to a compensatory self-delusion, illustrated by the ridiculous claim that the World of Wearable Art event is world famous.