New Zealand likes to cut down its tall poppies.
It appears that I could be the only one here who is willing to rise above the toxic culture embedded in the soil of New Zealand and speak out. This is a calling I am happy to rise to, and so I have decided to write down these thoughts of mine in order to bestow my clarity upon the masses regarding "Tall Poppy Syndrome".
As the non-official tenants of the rear end of the world, us Kiwis seem to possess an insecure pack mentality. This "Tall Poppy Syndrome" which (despite sounding like the name of an enthusiastic local 'Battle of the Bands' entry) is a term meant to appeal to medical language to suggest we have a problem. To suggest that we aren't quite right in the head.
Maybe it's the fact that we are often forgotten in global conversation, which has perhaps set us on our quest, hell bent to "really put New Zealand on the map" by any means possible, whether it be through the extortion of our local Hobbit and wider Middle Earth populations, the deification of scrummaging Canterbury men or the need to constantly remind everyone that Russell Crowe is one of us.
It seems we won't be stopped until the entire world is painted black and agrees to bow down in worship before billboards of half-naked Daniel Carter. Carter avoids the Tall Poppy trap for his consistent usage of "all credit to the boys" when paid a compliment about his efforts with ball in hand.
Maybe it's the unavoidable reality that while Britain almost singlehandedly spread parliamentary democracy, birthed the industrial revolution and conquered a quarter of the world, and the US has sent people to the moon, given us Zac Efron and filled our lives with Disney memorabilia, New Zealand has yet to really launch. Although we're pretty good at letting people use our bush and mountainous terrain for wide camera shots.
It is no surprise then that there was public outrage at the Danish Politician who described our unique culture as "uncivilised and grotesque", obviously unaware of the way in which a powhiri discounts any danger of us becoming Australia's poor cousin in the global arena. Yeah, well, she won't be laughing when the world sees what cutting edge New Zealand journalism is capable of when Seven Sharp goes global.
We want to be taken seriously, but we want to be taken seriously as a nation. So there is really no room for certain bright sparks who want to succeed here on our home soil, what good will that do? None at all. Just annoy us with their 'big fish in a little pond' self-assuredness. Thank goodness Kimbra exists.
But what is it?
It's not so much a resentment of the success of an individual, but an attitude than insists that all should be equal in every respect, and leaves no room for anyone to flaunt their achievements to others. Those that cannot adhere to this rule are exiled to the realm of try hards, Americans and Daniel Bedingfield.
Historian James Belich suggests that the syndrome emerged from New Zealand's classless beginnings in which the gentry were "sheep farmers, merchants, financiers, officials and professionals. They seldom descended from tight aristocracy; they worked quite hard themselves" while maintaining "an absence of extreme class distinctions, class oppression and direct gentry rule". He might be on to something, but he gets quoted everywhere and it's probably gone to his head so don't give him too much weight.
Cultural analyst Mark Sayers, who always seems to want to show everyone that he knows more than them (probably an Australian thing) says it stemmed from "the effect that the Reformation had upon the way that protestant countries viewed authority and leadership." Good one, Mark. The Catholics already think they're better than everyone else.
The Role of the Church
In our calling to redeem the world, the church needs to answer to this fallen aspect of our cultural psyche. We need to show the world that the fact that being better than other people is okay, that our God given destiny is to walk in victory, abundance and influence.
In fact, speaking of destiny, it's great to see some of our big names like Brian Tamaki moving beyond Tall Poppy Syndrome and appointing themselves as bishops and apostles of the nation. The Kingdom of God is bigger and better than self deprecation. And it drives nice cars.
In fact, it would almost be irresponsible for us to allow ourselves to be victims of Tall Poppy Syndrome at all. We are the moral lighthouse of society, and without us taking the high ground, how are the heathens supposed to know how bad they are and then feel so bad about themselves that they turn to Jesus? The ultimate fate of every kiwi sinner depends on us making them look bad by parading our ethical successes for all to see.
If this isn't the gospel then I don't know what is.
Sam Burrows is an ex-Middle School teacher (he made it out alive) who is currently working in Young Adult ministry while completing a Graduate Diploma in Theology at Laidlaw College. In his spare time he likes to pretend to be a rock star and writes for enjoyment and in order to impress a potential wife.
Sam Burrows previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/sam-burrows.html
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