When did New Zealanders stop giving a damn?

by Bill Ralston / 15 May, 2017

Image/The Simpsons

Tuning out the media only allows the likes of Homer Simpson – and Donald Trump – to take over.

At what point did many or, indeed, most of us cease giving a damn? There was a time when we would march in the streets, write letters to the editor and rant with our friends about some atrocity.

These days, we get more excited when a new burger bar opens down the road. Having devoured every form of news for the past five decades, I may have become sated by troubling information and therefore I no longer give a fig when something awful or outrageous occurs.

Perhaps it’s because the US appears to be presided over by a man with the intellect of Homer Simpson. Will he nuke the little fat guy in North Korea? Can he build a Berlin-style wall between the States and his southern neighbour? Why did he employ modern-day Nazis in the White House?

There’s nothing we can do about any of those issues. We cannot have any influence on the outcome, so we tune out the static coming through the news and concentrate on what we can have an effect on.

True, there are some excited souls out there still rattling the cage about issues on social media, but they sound lonely and more than a little desperate as they yell at each other in their echo chamber.

Take a look at Auckland. It’s obvious that the biggest problem the city faces isn’t whether to have a waterfront sports stadium but horrific traffic congestion. The city has become completely choked at rush hour; a brief shower of rain or a single nose-to-tail accident brings traffic to a halt across the region.

Aucklanders may fret about house prices, but there is no point in living in an affordable home if it takes you hours to get to work or school. You have to wonder why there are not mobs besieging the office of Mayor Phil Goff or their local members of Parliament demanding action. We do not, it seems, give a damn.

I look out the window of our bach at the creek running into the sea and it is choked with great globs of green slime, washed down from the farms upstream. Kids swim in the estuary that it trickles through and a small sign warns parents of the dangers of disease from the water.

Our polluted waterways make for a recurring story. Our second-biggest export earner, dairy, seems in danger of killing our biggest earner, tourism, but we don’t give a damn.

The usual voices rise up to decry such situations, but they generally fail to resonate with most of us. Is the problem that we have become desensitised to outrage by the barrage of negative news about virtually everything that spews out of the radio and television and fills the newspapers?

Probably. But in the world away from the one portrayed by the media, most of us are too busy trying to make a living and, frankly, there doesn’t seem to be any way we can have a direct influence on those problems.

Our apathy comes to the fore during elections, which in recent times have inspired fewer and fewer of us to vote. That is the danger of not giving a damn: you end up with Homer Simpson running your country.

This article was first published in the May 13, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.


Get the Listener delivered to your inbox

Subscribe now

@nzlistener @nzlistenermag @nzlistener

MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage

Latest

The demise of Todd Barclay and all the Gor-r-rey details
75338 2017-06-23 00:00:00Z Politics

The demise of Todd Barclay and all the Gor-r-rey d…

by Jane Clifton

The Todd Barclay debacle says more about PM Bill English than the tyro MP.

Read more
Could the Grenfell Tower fire happen here?
75344 2017-06-23 00:00:00Z World

Could the Grenfell Tower fire happen here?

by The Listener

The short answer is no. The more honest answer to whether a similar disaster might happen here is yes, if we are not constantly vigilant.

Read more
Dame Julie Christie makes perfect sense in a Trumpian world
75079 2017-06-23 00:00:00Z Television

Dame Julie Christie makes perfect sense in a Trump…

by Diana Wichtel

Julie Christie is almost as polarising as that famous American former reality TV star.

Read more
Book review: The Patriots by Sana Krasikov
74973 2017-06-23 00:00:00Z Books

Book review: The Patriots by Sana Krasikov

by Eleanor Ainge Roy

A rich tale of chasing adventure – and the hammer and sickle –is touted as the “Doctor Zhivago of our times”.

Read more
A Way with Words: Alan Carter
75098 2017-06-23 00:00:00Z Books

A Way with Words: Alan Carter

by Alan Carter

Transplanted Aussie author Alan Carter describes his writing day.

Read more
First Look – The Halcyon
75438 2017-06-23 00:00:00Z Auckland Eats

First Look – The Halcyon

by Kate Richards

The space once occupied by Andiamo gets taken over by the trio behind Ponsonby Road Bistro.

Read more
Steve Hansen on the first Lions test: 'We've got to be right on our game'
74293 2017-06-23 00:00:00Z Sport

Steve Hansen on the first Lions test: 'We've got t…

by Noted

There’s nothing quite like playing the Lions and, according to All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, his players will make the most of the opportunity.

Read more
Labour Party officials step in to help disgruntled interns
75349 2017-06-22 11:45:32Z Politics

Labour Party officials step in to help disgruntled…

by RNZ

Senior Labour Party officials have had to step in to deal with interns brought to NZ to work on the election campaign, after complaints.

Read more