Govt isn’t the country

New Zealand author Eleanor Catton used the forum of the Jaipur Literary Festival to criticise her country, its people and its  government:

Man Booker Prize author Eleanor Catton says she is uncomfortable being seen as an ambassador for New Zealand which she says is dominated by neo-liberal, profit-obsessed, shallow and money hungry politicians who do not care about culture.

The Luminaries author made her comments at the Jaipur Literary Festival which were reported across India, including at length on Indian news website Live Mint.

She said New Zealand did not have a lot of confidence in the brains of its citizens and there was a lot of embarrassment over writers. . .

She also said:

. . . “We have this strange cultural phenomenon called ‘tall poppy syndrome’,” she said. “If you stand out, you will be cut down.

“If you get success overseas often the local population can suddenly be very hard on you … it betrays an attitude towards individual achievement which is very uncomfortable.”

Despite her historic novel winning the Man Booker prize, it missed out on the main prize at New Zealand Post Book Awards.

Catton said she was uncomfortable with the way her international accolade was regarded in her home country. “It has to belong to everybody or the country really doesn’t want to know about it.”

She also said she was angry with the Government, which cared only about short-term gains.

Catton said had struggled with her identity as a New Zealand writer in the past year despite being in an “extraordinary position”.

“I feel uncomfortable being an ambassador for my country when my country is not doing as much as it could, especially for the intellectual world.” . . .

She has been criticised for making the comments.

I have no issue with her speaking out, she has the right to say what she thinks.

I do, however, take issue with what she said and think that much of it is wrong.

New Zealanders generally rank well for literacy and reading. From what I’ve observed from travel we have a lot more bookshops than many other countries and we have active and vibrant literary and artistic communities here who appreciate our artists.

To say New Zealand is dominated by neo-liberal, profit-obsessed, shallow and money hungry politicians who do not care about culture and that we have a Government, which cared only about short-term gains reflects her own political views which is very much a matter of opinion and one I think is unfair.

This government is focussed on the economy not as an end but the means to help people help themselves and look after those who can’t.

It  took a very moderate approach to policies in order to protect the vulnerable from the worst of the global financial crisis. Just one example of its long-term approach is welfare where it is determined to get those who can work into jobs.

But even is she was right about the government she is wrong to confuse it with the country.

Governments come and go, some of their policies endure and some don’t. They influence what happens but they are not the country.

To be uncomfortable as an ambassador for the country simply because she doesn’t like the government is showing the sort of ignorance of which she criticises her fellow citizens.

23 Responses to Govt isn’t the country

  1. Mr G says:

    Which bit of Eleanor Catton’s comments below could be described as wrong?

    “At the moment, New Zealand, like Australia and Canada, is dominated by these neo-liberal, profit-obsessed, very shallow, very money-hungry politicians who do not care about culture. They care about short-term gains.”

    “Key is clearly profit obsessed, neoliberal, money hungry and cares about short term gains. From what he says and what he does, it would not be extravagant to describe his as shallow and say he does not care about culture. We hear about his golf games and his love of the mighty USA. We don’t hear about visits to the theatre or books he reads.

    He’s a currency trader, for goodness sake.
    He seems mighty defensive about the description.”

    Hat-tip “Blue” @ The Standard

  2. Mr G says:

    True, Ele doesn’t say Catton is wrong…

    “But even is she was right about the government …”

  3. farmerbraun says:

    It is quite clear that Catton is spouting personality politics invective.
    It is unclear why this is news.
    The personality of the PM is as irrelevant as his former occupation.
    The media seem to persist in depicting the PM as president:what is their purpose in this?
    Anyone?

  4. farmerbraun says:

    Mr G , we all have an individual literary style. I don’t think that individual styles are worthy of remark.

  5. Mr G says:

    “The right wing really are trying to squirm away from facing the challenge presented by these words.

    “At the moment, New Zealand, like Australia and Canada is dominated by these neo-liberal, profit-obsessed, very shallow, very money-hungry politicians who do not care about culture. They care about short-term gains. They would destroy the planet in order to be able to have the life they want. I feel very angry with my government.”

    Notice how they are trying to move in onto a discussion about tall poppies and literature.

    They aren’t comfortable with the description of their dear leader being shown up to be without culture, obsessed about money and uncaring about the environment.

    I think Eleanor Catton uses most diplomatic language to describe our shallow greedy and selfish government and politicians.

    Abridged from The Standard

    http://thestandard.org.nz/taxpayers-union-press-release-on-eleanor-catton/

  6. farmerbraun says:

    I think that Catton has a remarkable talent for writing fiction.
    Her opinion on politics is just that . . . opinion, and excessively personal.
    Culture is everywhere around us :we live in it.And the manifestations are suitably diverse.
    One Catton is probably enough.
    Monoculture.
    No thanks.

  7. Mr G says:

    ” I feel very angry with my government.”

    Good on her for saying so.

  8. Willdwan says:

    Seems an odd attitude, I thought NZ had treated her well. Perhaps she should stand in the next election and see how it goes.

  9. Mr G says:

    She explained what it is she is angry about. You couldn’t understand her reasoning, Will? Odd, her being a professional communicator and all.

  10. Mr G says:

    This is good (link to full post included)
    “Eleanor Catton is a remarkable young woman. She was the youngest writer ever to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the youngest to have won it. The status of this award is considered by many writers to be equal to the American Pulitzer Prize and second only to the Nobel Prize in Literature. Catton was made a member of the New Zealand Order Of Merit in 2014 and was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Literature from Victoria University.”

    http://localbodies-bsprout.blogspot.co.nz

  11. Mr G says:

    “Personally, Key’s response bothered me a lot more. By reflexively pigeon-holing Catton as a Green, Key showed once again that he governs only for the people who vote for his programme. Those who differ – and their opinions – are to be personally taken down. I hope the ‘bravery” that Catton talks about will not waver because of the kneejerk reactionary in the Beehive.”

    Gordon Campbell – rings some bells here, doesn’t it!
    http://gordoncampbell.scoop.co.nz/2015/01/29/gordon-campbell-on-the-eleanor-catton-rumpus/

  12. Willdwan says:

    I thought Mr Key was quite gracious. I guess she should have declined the ambassadorship. (is that a word?) But I think we will cope with her disapproval. I won’t be losing sleep.

  13. TraceyS says:

    One example is that the New Zealand Book Award that follows the announcement of the Man Booker Prize, in the year The Luminaries won it, there was this kind of thing that now you’ve won this prize from overseas, we’re not going to celebrate it here, we’re going to give the award to somebody else.

    Take a look at some of the more recent educational philosophies which have emerged in schools for an explanation of that. The “everyone is a winner” concept, watering down the success of others, so everyone else feels better about themselves. Or do they?

    Socialism on a stick!

  14. JC says:

    “Personally, Key’s response bothered me a lot more. By reflexively pigeon-holing Catton as a Green, Key showed once again that he governs only for the people who vote for his programme.”

    On the contrary I thought Key defended her quite well. He noted her mental disability rejected by 90% of voters and how she had risen above it to produce a great book liked by at least 30% of Amazon critics and the Gruniard and defended her right to be an ass.

    JC

  15. jabba says:

    let me see, very few people in NZ, outside Riverton of course, had ever heard of Catton prior to a few people giving her an award for a book she had published. Suddenly she is a political expert slagging off the most popular PM NZ has ever seen. Go figure.
    I would also suggest that until this childish rant, more people had heard of Aaron Gate, George Bennett and Jack Bauer.
    I wonder if RGB, Mr G or our BoBBy Guyton would be interested in their politics?

  16. Mr G says:

    “let me see, very few people in NZ, outside Riverton of course, had ever heard of Catton prior to a few people giving her an award for a book…”

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha – priceless!

  17. farmerbraun says:

    Well come on ; who has read the book?
    Own up 🙂

  18. jabba says:

    thanks bOb, I mean Mr G

  19. Willdwan says:

    I’ve got a copy but have not made a serious effort at it yet. It’s hard to get into. Will get around to it some day maybe. Reading ‘Nostromo’ at present. It’s brilliant.

  20. RBG says:

    If Sean Plunkett had responded to Catton’s comments in the calm way you did Homepaddock there wouldn’t have been such a stink. What is outrageous is that he called her a traitor. The headline on Stuff still contains that word. That is an extreme, unacceptable over reaction. I have read the book, I enjoyed it. Her portrayal of 1860s Hokitika and Dunedin was really neat. She described the discrimination and limited options experienced by women, Maori and Chinese at that time, while not demonising the white male characters. All with a complex and satisfying mystery story.

  21. RBG says:

    We had All Blacks and other well known sports people publically supporting John Key and National at the election, they used their position as celebrities to promote their ‘excessively personal’ political views. It would be hypocritical for anyone who didn’t complain about them to now object to Eleanor Catton using her fame to say what she thinks.

  22. Mr G says:

    Hypocrisy right there, RBG.
    But Jonah Lomu breaking the rules is okay, because he was encouraging people to vote National and National Good, Labour Bad, Greens Looney..

    Jonah a traitor? Naaaaaaaaah

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: