Monday, 26 October 2020

"This is the first fact to remember about New Zealanders..."


"For New Zealand is a good country. It has the feeling of being a very old country, though not at all in the European sense where countries are old with the marks of humanity...
    "New Zealand is very old, much older than any of this, and quite untouched by men. Its rocks and mountains are worn smooth by south Pacific winds. They are very cold to touch and very clean. The country, with its sharp hills, gives you the same feeling as the clear salt of the sea. The country is, in fact, so old in itself that none of us have dared to touch it; we have only just begun to live there. The Maoris who came before us moved among the dark heavy trees like ghosts and could have sailed away at any time and never left a mark. We could leave it ourselves now: in a few years the red-roofed wooden bungalows would rot with borer and crumble into the earth. Fern would cover the grassland and, after fern, small trees would come and in time the dark, rich, matted bush again. Other men might come in a hundred years and nothing that we had left would worry them, but they could draw strength as we have done from the sharp, fierce lines of the hills and the streams always running and the wide sea on every side. 
    "This has been another cause of conflict to New Zealanders, that there have never been enough of them nor have they had sufficient confidence in themselves to take over the country, so that they live there like strangers or as men might in a dream which will one day wake and destroy them. 
    "There is nothing soft about New Zealand, the country. It is very hard and sinewy, and will outlast many of those who try to alter it. 
    "This is one reason why New Zealanders, a young people but already with a place in history, are often wanderers and restless and unhappy men. They come from the most beautiful country in the world, but it is a small country and very remote. After a while this isolation oppresses them and they go abroad. They roam the world looking not for adventure but for satisfaction. They run service cars in Iraq, or2 goldmines in Nevada, or newspapers in Fleet St. They are a queer, lost, eccentric, pervading people who will seldom admit to the deep desire that is in all of them to go home and live quietly in New Zealand again.
    "Those who do not go abroad and do not travel are afflicted with the same sad restlessness. They are all the time wanting to set out across the wide seas that surround them in order to find the rest of the world... New Zealanders are all the time standing on the edge of these seas. They spend their lives wanting to set out across the wide oceans that surround them in order to find the rest of the world. 
    "One way and another, those who are going and those who are staying have all the time within them this sad inner conflict and frustration. This is the first fact to remember about New Zealanders, who live in the most beautiful country of the world."

          ~ John Mulgan, from his 1947 Report on Experience 


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