In my Why Leave America post, I cast a wide net over the cancers of America that so keenly appall me. On a more positive note, I’d like to address several of the reasons why New Zealand is a much better place to live.
- New Zealand is a small country with a small population (just over 4 million people). Its population density is half that of the U.S., a much better indicator of the vastness of its empty spaces than any incongruous comparison of absolute space or population.
- As a commonwealth country, irrevocably influenced by its cultural closeness (rather than its cultural distance, as with the U.S.) to Great Britain, its social world consists of good manners and a palpable sense of generosity and respect. My experience over three trips and 12 years leads me to conclude that kiwis are nicer, politer people than Americans, across the board, regardless of socioeconomic status, and in a number of different contexts (sporting events, the wilderness, farms, city pubs, etc.).
- The Maori are a vibrant, ever-present people. Contrast this with Native Americans, who, if you happen to know one, could hardly be called vibrant, if we define vibrance as the manifestation of a people’s sense of self-determination and righteous inclusion in the governance of a land.
- New Zealand is, jokingly, 20 years behind the times. Ha ha, how very funny. But think about what that means, particularly if you remember a time before 24/7 news cycles, internet sycophants, the thoughtless swallowing of the cybernetic lifestyle, and a corporate voice so strong that you cannot walk down the street or drive more than a mile in any city without encountering it. Yes, kiwis have constant news, they have fast internet connections, and they have cell-phones, but, as I pointed out in my post below, we must consider orders of magnitude. If America is a chain-smoker, New Zealand still only enjoys the occasional social cigarette.
- New Zealand’s climate enjoys the unique stabilizing effect of its sea temperatures and trade winds. The North Island, nearly sub-tropical in its top third, blends into temperate central and lower thirds. Wellington, while too windy and chilly for my tastes, is only several hundred miles south of routinely sunny beaches and hot inland towns. Auckland, which knows rain and wind, is mostly even-keeled, a lush green city on the southern end of the sub-tropical zone.
- New Zealand is still enough of an agrarian society that it harbors all the values of working hard for long periods of time on property passed through generations. The net effect of this is a fully integrated and proud working class that balances, if not dwarfs, the socially corrosive influence of high-tech industries.
- In 1996, New Zealand changed its electorate system, eliminating 2-party rule and allowing for a fully functional multi-party system. This system consists of the two “traditional” parties, Labour and National, which correspond roughly to our Democrats and Republicans, respectively, plus 6 additional parties, most of them left-wing. ACT and United Future — never to be confused with each other — would be considered far less left, while the Green party fills the role of dedicated environmental ideologist.
- Are you interested in or able to have a face-to-face conversation with a high-ranking elected official in America? No. Again, orders of magnitude. Helen Clark, NZ’s Prime Minister, is often seen having tea or lunch at any old joint in Wellington. Green party MP, Jeanette Fitzsimons, met privately with my boyfriend while we were on vacation in NZ. She even invited him to attend a parliamentary session. No, I did not mistype. You can reach your elected officials in NZ and they will talk to you through means other than a form letter/email written by an intern.
- New Zealand, not only because of the mostly non-magical influence of Anglicanism, has yet to fall into the disgusting American trap of giving formal, legal, and institutionalized power to religious idiots who abuse government to advance their (im)moral agendas. I can’t stress how important this feature of New Zealand is. Even the United Future party, with its Christian pedigree, has abandoned its “Christian” branding in favor of a more centrist approach. This would be the equivalent of the Republican party shearing off the woolly Christian right, crystallizing radicalism in a fringe party that, in order to succeed, must abandon some of its hardline positions. That, my friends, is the flattening power of the multi-party system.