ARE WE ALL KIWIS AT HEART?
New Zealand is a country I always felt safe growing up in and was a country I felt proud to be associated with. In many ways I loved being able to take pride in knowing I was a New Zealander, often referred to as a Kiwi. Kiwis are native flightless birds unique to New Zealand and have become known as a global symbol of the country and its culture.
I grew up in the small city of Tauranga after spending the first few years of my life in Dunedin, my birth place. Tauranga was, and still is, a beautiful city which is designed and laid out across a wide and diverse region of the Bay of Plenty. You can go from beaches to kiwi fruit orchards to farm land and to bustling city life all within a comfortable driving distance of each other.
I would always observe, as I grew up, the vast number of tourists and ‘foreigners’ who would come to visit and perhaps eventually settle in New Zealand, often choosing Tauranga as their place of residence. I was often struck by the implicitly implied view that so many, including myself at that time, held about these people, which was to view them as outsiders and not truly as an equal citizen of this amazing land, let alone this planet. There was, and still is, this view that there is an invasion of people from outside this country choosing to live here and seemingly taking it over. People have come from all around the world to live in New Zealand but despite this there was particular discrimination of the Asian migrants who have chosen to make New Zealand their home. I would often hear the term ‘Asian invasion’ when I was at school, a term which encapsulates a view generally held by many that migrants are taking over the country. To this day this view has not changed and in many ways worsened.
I headed overseas after I graduated from university study, and now choosing to reside in Belgium with my wife, I can see now how very insular and rather arrogant I had become with my attitude towards being a ‘Kiwi on the world stage’. I did not even realise just how much of a Kiwi I held myself to be in view of the fact that the other 6.9 billion people on this planet are not Kiwis.
But what truth does this attitude actually hold, if any at all? The fact is, our ‘kiwi-ness’ is only skin deep because on the inside we are literally all the same. No scientist or doctor needed to prove that fact!
It got me pondering further of why then do we hold this view that when another comes to ‘our’ country they are somewhat of an ‘outsider’, not a true ‘Kiwi’ and do not belong here? This is pure racism when you think about it. Modern day discrimination, no different to the apartheid or other racial conflicts of the past.
What I have noticed since being overseas is just how many people say to me that New Zealand is a beautiful and magical place they wish to one day visit or live and just how lucky I am to have come from such a great country.
However, what is starkly obvious as I travel round the world, is the fact that so many in this world are not so well off as is the general case of most New Zealanders. Now I don’t just mean money here, I mean prosperity with the land, nature and the vast feeling of purity the land of New Zealand still holds, which most can without a doubt feel and be in awe of.
Do we realise the greater and grander picture of what is being shown to us here? Despite our many issues, be it financial, environmental, social, domestic, or just the day to day mundaneness we find ourselves in, the grandness, beauty, awe and deep appreciation of our land cannot be ignored and whilst we might all agree on this fact, are we missing the picture of what it is really showing us on a deeper level?
What if the grandness, magic and natural beauty of the land and the environment of New Zealand is actually showing the grandness, magic and natural beauty within us all regardless of where we come from or where we were born? What if this land is, in truth, not just our own but there for everyone on this planet to be in awe of and inspired by so they can feel what is in them too?
I can see how much I have sought to be associated and defined by this and hence wanted to keep it to myself under the notion of being a ‘New Zealander’ but in actual fact I am not just a man from New Zealand, I am a beautiful man of this planet. And perhaps this brings another factor to the fore… can we accept and begin to see that we are all in fact global citizens?
No tall poppy syndrome here… no trying to parade or prove ourselves on the world ‘stage’, just an equal responsibility to the fact that we are all in truth of this world, not just of this country. I feel we have long sought to keep ourselves small and perhaps the definition of being a ‘New Zealander’ is a comfortable way to do it. After all we are just a small island nation of only 4.6 million people so what responsibility do we have to what is happening in the world anyway - right?
New Zealand is becoming ever more populated by peoples from other nations, proving the fact that so many feel drawn to what this tiny, yet grand, land has to offer us all. And for me, this proves that the very notion of defining ourselves by any citizenship or birthplace is completely flawed, as these days you can have people who consider themselves Asian, European, American, Australian and still call themselves a Kiwi.
So, what if we are Kiwis at heart?
And what if that very nature, down to earth approach and ‘number 8 wire’ type of ingenuity was actually within us all?
Above all, it is well worth appreciating and feeling the fact that the little island nation of New Zealand actually reflects to us a quality that is there within us all whether we are from this land or not. What if we are much, much grander, wider, bigger and huger (not referring to belly size here, rather the quality within us and what we are able to bring to others) than we often hold ourselves to be? What if living this way is what it really means to be a Kiwi at heart?
By JC (Europe)