My wife and I returned to our home country of NZ on the weekend after a ten-week overseas trip and it’s wonderful to be back. I am almost reluctant to admit how wonderful it is, because people then presume that the trip somehow failed to deliver or grew tiresome. It did neither and the nine countries we (semi)covered in that time supplied brilliant people and places in equal measure – not to mention glorious food for thought and belly… I may inflict some of those experiences (and my reaction to them) on you in future posts.
But none of it took away from the pleasure of being home. That first real Kiwi twang of an accent at Auckland airport. That first inhale of fresh air just outside it. (Try doing THAT in the biggest city of any other country.) That first slice of marmite toast. And, unfortunately, that first closed-minded talk-back caller…
I suppose it serves me right for tuning in when I was in such a good mood, but the caller was griping about the proposal to have all NZers contribute towards the costs of refinancing the Earthquake Commission, after the Christchurch quake. A significant part of the problem, he claimed, was those ‘free-riders’ who never insured their homes and are now wanting to be bailed out. He quickly moved on to condemn ‘bludgers’ of all types, including those receiving benefits and food parcels – with praise reserved for all hard-working tax-payers.
I know that callers like this are not uncommon and I also know that there is a time to discuss the responsibilities of home-owners and all other members of society. But listening to his tirade with my post-home-coming glow on, I wondered if perhaps he had missed something of what it is to be part of a country as small and connected as ours is – you know, two degrees of separation, and all that…
It seemed to me, as we traveled around, that a country’s separation is inversely linked to its success. Those who through conflict and/or corruption and/or poverty feel no sense of responsibility to their countrymen are (surprise, surprise) doing rather badly. And visiting two major and much-loved cities only weeks after their respective riots (Vancouver and London) revealed what can also result in “civilised” communities when that sense of responsibility is briefly but totally abandoned by those who should know better.
Fresh predictions out this week reveal that the costs of Christchurch may end up being significantly higher than earlier estimates. Three times as many homes have suffered severe damage than first thought. At 8% of GDP it is the most costly single event, by head of population, to ever hit a county.
Happily, as my week progressed, it seemed that (griping callers aside) most people are feeling that national sense of connectedness and looking to play their part. Which is just another one of the many reasons why it’s great to be back!