Kiwis are very good at celebrating our sporting heroes, but often not so good at acknowledging those with abilities in other areas. Since I've never traveled I can't confirm it from my own experience, but NZ's anti-intellectualism is often remarked on. It's not as though we don't have smart and educated people in our country, capable of offering insightful commentary. Nonetheless, we seem to give a lot of public attention to plonkers. Allow me to illustrate my point.
#1 Garth McVicar
What are Garth's qualifications to speak on justice issues? What's his mandate? Nil and nil. Even if he offered a consistent line on victims' rights, I might be more kindly disposed to him, but Garth seems to care about 'worthy' victims only. He expressed public sympathy for the frustration of businessman Bruce Emery but none for Pihema Cameron, the child Emery stabbed to death. And I don't recall Garth being up in arms about the rape of an eighteen year old woman by English rugby players, or the public vilification of the woman which followed. Garth also calls for a return to the good old days of caning at schools because society was so harmonious then (if you can overlook a couple of world wars, etc). What research supports Garth's claims? Kiwi battlers don't need research. Garth's in it to defend ordinary, decent, hardworking kiwis. Taggers and alleged sluts need not apply.
#2 Christine Rankin
As WINZ chief executive for a time in the nineties, Christine was the poster girl of the rabid right. She was an ex-DPB recipient - a solo mum willing to sink the boot into other solo mums through draconian WINZ policies - who drew a great deal of attention to herself by wearing silly earrings and playing fast and loose with taxpayers' money. Famous for being well known, she continues to make a spectacle of herself, performing on Dancing with the Stars and fronting an organisation against child abuse while simultaneously defending a parent's 'right' to smack his/her children. And because she grew up in an abusive home, no one is willing to call her out as the waste of space that she so clearly is - in fact, she can be seen from time to time offering media commentary.
#3 Marc Ellis
Since his sports career ended, Marc Ellis has had no claim to fame whatsoever except his propensity to be an idiot in public. Describing himself as 'sweating like a rapist' is but one example. This seems to be enough for Ellis to be classified as an 'entertainer' in the weakest sense of that word. No matter how objectionable his behaviour, we let him away with it because he's funny. Except that he's not funny.
#4 Celia Lashlie
As a woman who dislikes other women, Celia Lashlie - or Backlashlie, as I prefer to call her - has found herself a niche. Her experience as a prison warden has made her an expert on all things to do with all young men at all times. Young men's problems, from bad language to fatal car accidents to criminal offending, are caused by their mothers. "It's mollycoddling, it's making his lunch, it's picking up his clothes off the floor and washing them, it's protecting him against the school rules." And as our sons cross that bridge from childhood to manhood, we need to get our caring maternal hands off them: "The hard reality for mothers is, you will delay your son's entrance into manhood if you don't move over on the bridge." Even as the Mental Health Commission urges kiwi men to talk about their feelings for the sake of their wellbeing, Celia goes around boys' schools telling boys that not talking is just what normal boys do. She believes that women's equality has gone too far, and we're now trying to take over the world. It seems that all you need to do to become an acknowledged expert is to say something that rednecks want to hear.
Why, New Zealand, why?