Monthly Archives: September 2011

Thus Spake the Millennials

We are having a National election on November 26.  But you wouldn’t know it because the politicians have declared a temporary truce during the Rugby World Cup and there has been no campaigning.

The official reason is because we have a lot of overseas guests and we should be focusing on showing New Zealand at its best rather than airing dirty laundry.  But the real reason is probably that the politicians don’t want to take time away
from rugby watching by having to campaign.

In any event, no one is complaining.

It will be a fairly important election for three reasons.  First, in my opinion, all
elections are important.  Second, with everything going on in the world from a political and economic perspective, political leadership is more important than ever.  Lastly, the incumbent prime minister is up for re-election.  He is tremendously popular and polls indicate that he may get enough votes to form a government without a coalition.  With that in mind he has been very forthright in saying exactly what he will do if elected.  So voters are theoretically better informed than ever and should either support the guy if they agree with him or go out and vote for an opponent so their voice can be heard.

Call me old fashioned, but it’s kind of refreshing to see a reasonably vibrant democracy in action and especially one that is civil enough to suspend politics while the country is partying.

But that didn’t stop the media from springing a nasty surprise on us.  In New Zealand voting isn’t mandatory, but registering to vote is.  You can be fined $100 if you don’t register.  The news report was that even after a blitz registration campaign by Elections New Zealand,  about 25% of young adults between the ages of 18-29 have yet to enrol to vote.

When a sample of non-registering Millennials were asked why, they didn’t say, “I forgot.”  Or, “I’m going to do it, I just haven’t gotten around to it.”  No.  They said things like, “It’s uncool.” And, “Voting is something adults do.”

Some used the “my vote doesn’t count anyway,” excuse.  But most terrifying was the fairly widespread claim of “I’m politically aware but choose to express my
views using other avenues such as social networking.”

If I understand that utterance correctly, there has been a failure on someone’s part in explaining the concept of voting to these people.  News flash:  Expressing your opinion on MySpace is not the same thing as voting.

What worries me about this phenomenon, aside from the fact that there are 18-29 year olds who do not consider themselves adults, is that it is probably is not limited to New Zealand.  It shows a shocking lack of engagement with the real world and a generation gap that is just the opposite of the one in the 1960s.

Back then, young people were making noise and listening to good music while adults were telling them not to rock the boat and listening to bad music.  Today adults are listening to good music and asking why the world is in the condition is and young people are saying don’t bother us while listening to bad music.

As 18th century French philosopher Charles de Montesquieu said, “The tyranny of a prince in a monarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy.”  Too bad de Montesquieu is not on Facebook.

Lighter Moments From The Rugby World Cup (So Far)

Life as we know it is sort of on hold down here.

On Friday, the 2011 Rugby World Cup got underway.  That may not sound like much if you don’t live in New Zealand, but just to put things in perspective, when NZ was awarded the hosting rights for this year’s cup they created a government ministry and named a Minister of the Rugby World Cup.  Then they changed the dates of the school year around so the school kids would be on break during the finals and semi finals.  The official reason is to minimize traffic congestion.

A UK sports writer is persona non grata down here for complaining that New Zealand is “a nation in which parameters begin and end with its national rugby team” and that such a nation “invites ridicule for such a blinkered existence.”

Actually, some places have been designated “rugby free zones” so that people whose parameters extend beyond rugby don’t feel as if they have been stuck in a space/time warp.

But I can’t complain.  I lived most of my life in a city whose baseball and football teams rarely even made it to the playoffs so I’m finding the enthusiasm and exuberance all rather refreshing.  Every other car is flying the flag of the country whose team the occupants are rooting for.  And the opening ceremony on Friday before the All Blacks annihilated Tonga made me proud to be a Kiwi.

Even if you aren’t a rugby fan there is a lot to keep you entertained.

For example, there was the moment of national angst when it was revealed that PlayStation had released a video game called Rugby World Cup 2011 and someone ran a simulated tournament and the NZ All Blacks didn’t win.

Then there was the story about the Auckland City council safety person who was asked about whether panhandlers would be turfed out of town a la New Delhi and Beijing.  The answer was no, but we were informed that three security guards had been hired to patrol downtown streets to make sure that visitors were not “beseeched” by people asking for money.  I suppose that it’s possible to be “beseeched” for money and if too many people ask, you could feel “besieged.”

Some of the nicest stories have been about the welcomes that visiting teams have received.  Because no one place can accommodate all of the teams, the entire
country has been turned into an Olympic village of sorts, with teams being
billeted in large and small towns.  In fact, the matches are going to be played all over the country, some in venues with capacity as small as 14,000.  When
the All Blacks aren’t playing, the New Zealanders come out to support their new
‘home’ teams.  For example, the crowd supporting the Japanese team decked themselves out in kimonos and samauri and ninja outfits.

But not everyone is getting into the party atmosphere.  The American team is staying in a North Island town called Wanganui.  The local Maori wanted to treat them to a traditional Maori canoe ride on the Wanganui River.  Those are the
canoes that they came from Hawaii to New Zealand in, so they are fairly heavy
duty.  The American team declined for “safety” reasons.

Yes, there’s been so much going on down here that it’s been hard to concentrate.  But yesterday, everyone’s attention was focused on an amazing and unique event.  News about the All Blacks temporarily took a back seat because the Nude Blacks made their World Cup debut!

I’ve mentioned before how sports teams get their names down here.  So you can probably figure out what the story behind the Nude Blacks is.  They bill themselves as “New Zealand’s Premier Nude Rugby Team.”

They are also New Zealand’s only nude rugby team and last night they were defeated by an all female team from Spain, known as “Los Conquistadors.”  The Spanish started the game fully clothed.  According to the rules, which
are established by, and subject to change at any time by the Nude Blacks, the
ladies would be expected to remove an article of clothing each time the Nude
Blacks scored.

Some of Los Conquistadores got down to their underwear but that was as far as it went and the Nude Blacks were handed their first defeat in history!

According to eye witness reports, the Nude Blacks performed a haka to open the game and the Los Conquistadors were forced to cool off using Spanish fans which they had brought along for just such an eventuality.

The Nude Blacks are planning three more matches before RWC games in Dunedin.

Discretion prevents me from posting pictures of the event, but those with a strong constitution and sense of humor can see some  here.

And we are only two days into a six week extravaganza.