In Growing Up Hating New Zealand – a mini-memoir on the horror of a Kiwi childhood published this week – offshore-based writer Katherine Dolan seems to have found her upbringing in Otago unstintingly dour.
Rural New Zealand in the 1980s and 1990s was a ‘puritanical – misogynist – authoritarian – anti-intellectual – alcohol-dependent society that specialised in casual brutality’ Dolan writes.
(ed:..um..!..of course with individual/some exceptions – it still is..isn’t it..?..)
As a child she was driven to a ‘lonely farmhouse on a hill’ (Gothic!) to watch a young animal ‘trustingly’ being led in to be killed and disemboweled.
‘The guts realised they were no longer contained and slipped heavily out on to the dirt’.
(ed:..i had one of those – a group of adults urging me as a 12 yr old to cut a sheeps’ throat – i will never forget what that felt like – killing that sheep – and it is no doubt at least part-reason i am now a vegan/animal-rights activist..the memory of taking that life..
..and where the above writer talks of guts ‘slipping heavily out’ – my takeaway was my surprise at how easily the knife cut through that throat – and the look in the sheeps’ eyes as it watched me kill it..
if they were ‘trying to make a man’ out of me – they clearly failed – in their definition of what makes ‘a man’…eh..?..
..but personally – in hindsight – i found the anti-intellectual culture harder to take – being ‘smart/clever’ (especially with the tongue) was something to be frowned upon..thank goodness there were books..!..
..at school i was bored rigid – so disrupted – i went to a catholic high school – and – this is true.!..i was ‘gagged’ in religious knowledge class – i was not allowed to ask any questions of this shaky-case for religious obedience being presented to me/us..(of course that lead directly to a total collapse of any ‘faith’..)
..then came the day they tried out this new thing – an i.q.-test…they tested the whole school – and i was the second highest..
..did this awareness change their attitude to me..?..hell no..they expelled me shortly after..(heh..!..in hindsight..fucken funny..)…
..and not expelled for any definite/specific ‘crime’..the official reason given was ‘we do not feel phillip has settled in in his five years at rosmini college’…
..now that..in hindsight..is also bloody funny..!..and perhaps pricks any delusions of some idyllic/bucolic past..eh..?
..i also voiced my boredom at/with rugby – that didn’t go down well..still doesn’t..
and as an aside – the latest uttering of that ‘the past was so much better!’-bullshit..came from that far-rightwing-clown stephen franks..
..on a political talkshow over the weekend – he made the jaw-dropping claim there was much less domestic-violence ‘back then’..
franks can clearly add (either willfull or deluded) ‘fool’ to his clown description..)
Some bullet points: Our culture was rugby culture.
Stoicism was a full-time duty.
We took defiant pride in our reputation for toughness.
Pain was considered good for the character.
Playing rugby was the best most noble thing you could do.
Apart from the poorly heated houses – ‘bed felt like a wet rock’ – and the bullying –
– life in Godzone was just peachy.