E2NZ Revisited: Robert Winston Says NZ Fears Technology And Has Poor Values

This is a blog we originally published in December 2009 and are re-visiting it now to attract discussion, please read our on-going comments section.

Has New Zealand progressed at all since Lord Winston made his observations and how is the social experiment going?

“British Lord Robert Winston, is in NZ for the 2nd International Symposium of Performance Science hosted at Auckland University, the brave man has been voicing his opinions about New Zealand society to the local press. Here are some snippets

TV3 News

“New Zealand is a wonderful country, but it is also a country which I think has some very poor values as well…The fact is that you still rate things like the America’s Cup, the All Blacks and the cricket (as) being far too important when actually they don’t fundamentally improve human wellbeing…You do some fantastically good science and it’s really sad that at the moment your Kiwis are in my laboratory. You are exporting the wrong things, you’re exporting your talent, the very talent which might prop up your economy. But there’s no future for them in this country”

Stuff (Dom Post)
Yahoo.co.nz

“New Zealand celebrates attributes which really aren’t that important…You do it with sportsmen and you don’t do it particularly with intellectuals, for example. In New Zealand, being an intellectual is slightly disadvantageous (ed. only slightly?) and is often seen by the press as being something which is rather well, not to be celebrated.”On the other hand, if you are a great rugby player, maybe parts of your private life which are pretty appalling, will go ignored. It is a society which tends to be driven by sailing, by the All Blacks and by the Bledisloe Cup.”

Ok Robert, so tell us something we didn’t already know! What you are saying will ring a bell with most migrants from developed countries in New Zealand.

What makes for far more interesting reading are the comments from the article caused on Yahoo News’ web pages:

Terence Patrick
“Not to put down our sports stars, but the man is absolutely right. I’d go further and say that if you don’t play along with the accepted dogma in this country you can almost be vilified. I think it’s called ” dumbing down ” the population. Individual excellence is almost anathema!”

Asabeth_Blue
“New Zealanders also, I’ve noticed, seem to suffer from what is known as ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’. If there is a rising academic or generally clever person, everyone does their best to smother them with things like ‘You need to be like everyone else’, ‘You won’t make any friends that way’, and the more subtle: ‘You should play/watch rugby more.’ And then people get confused when I leave the room whenever these things are …

Maxie
“i do strongly agree with Lord Winston. Being sports minded is good, i got nothing against that. but i did notice that excelling in sports is more glorified, more prestigious in schools, than excelling in the academics, where you have the thinkers. my boys don’t feel as confident in topping tests, they don’t want to be called geeks, but it’s a different feeling for sports. this is a very debatable topic, depending on which side you prefer. my own opinion though is …”

Alexndrtg
“I quite agree with Lord Winston!! Not very long after arriving in New Zealand from London, I was a little more than surprised in fact “gobsmacked”, to be told one day during conversation that, “you will never get a job in New Zealand, with an accent like that!!”. Did they mean? that my English diction was too good, and that maybe I should sound a little bit more inarticulate??”

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5 thoughts on “E2NZ Revisited: Robert Winston Says NZ Fears Technology And Has Poor Values

  1. The Ministry of Social Development did a study on the psychological and sociocultural adaptation of Russian immigrants in New Zealand. The researcher noted that she had to become very close, at the level of a close friend, to the families in order to perform the research, such was the reluctance to open up about their lack of acculturation. I think this is true in general of immigrants, however. That they are suspicious of expressing dissatisfaction to anyone, because the reaction to it is so bad here.

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  2. I would say that they are optimistic that New Zealand will do well in the tournament, and as is typical, not looking ahead to how they will handle, in the schools, the possibility that their nation will not place well, after hyping it up to this extent. Perhaps they will concentrate on their role as host more than competitor.

    Relative to the prospects for moneymaking, they are all jumping on the rugby bandwagon like a skyful of vultures circling a lost baby with a limp. It is also a mass brainwashing event. Rugby is their religion. How much attention would they be giving in classrooms to an international scientific event being hosted in New Zealand? None. Even when the subject is math or sociology, they manage to work the sports angle in somehow. Tedious!

    On British Expats, one poor future kid victim of their parents’ choice to move to New Zealand was posting on the forum, asking other children what it was like to live down there. The responses of the children of the already-moved were very sameish in their content, i.e.cheerful long text strings of all the sports they played. We know how honest these NZ forums are, however. If the parents were to take a look at their children’s FB, bebo, myspace and other pages, where they sound off more privately, they would learn what their offspring actually think about New Zealand.

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  3. “If there is a rising academic or generally clever person, everyone does their best to smother them with things like ‘You need to be like everyone else’, ‘You won’t make any friends that way’” etc. commenter above, who hammered it right on the nose, I think!

    They have school-wide sports events that you are not permitted to opt out of unless you are ill. I complained to someone about the insane focus on sports that they have here, and the answer revealed a complex of immoveable beliefs about it. For one thing, I was told that in schools, forcing everyone to engage gung-ho in sports events was a way of allowing the physically gifted to show that they are every bit as worthy as the more academically inclined children are. An immigrant might call that “putting smart kids in their place” but…they have another explanation for it. They also think it solves many problems to go outside and exercise, as well. To me, it feels like they consider outdoor sports to be some kind of magic solution to all sorts of problems too serious to be solved in that manner, but…that’s how they think. It’s a kind of band-aid for them. You can win many arguments in New Zealand, or even court cases, by making the proper sports analogy or alluding to the healthiness of your sports practices, either to convey a point and have them listen, or to mitigate any bad thing you may have done. “Oh, well, he cycles and surfs, so that’s ok then about the accounting fraud/meth lab/carjacking/child abuse”.

    Lord Winston, known for being “scrupulous about getting his science right” drops some wisdom patties on NZ once in awhile, which they never pay attention to. In 2004, it was “New Zealand’s stance on the GM issue was bizarre”, and they pointed to studies showing GM food made people ill. I think they feel very validated by the recent nuclear accident in Japan, as he had called them on that one, too. They don’t look at the general record or broader context of anything, however. They tend to pick some anomalous incident, infrequent acts or small percentage of failures to justify a wholesale knee-jerk rejection of something they are suspicious of. And they’ll flog that little minority feature to death to defend their decision. They are stubborn, simple-minded people, seemingly incapable of weighing multiple + and – factors or analysing nuanced situations. They are paranoid about radiation to the point of making bizarre (there’s that word again) comments on forums about visiting Japanese people maybe being radioactive now, etc. They are technological hold-outs – they take their concept of a 100% Pure Clean and Green New Zealand very seriously to the point of refusing to industralise at all. There are no inbetweens with them. They are believers in the thin end of the wedge theory. “Let one in and…” “Make an exception and…” “Start doing that and…the whole ship will go down and we won’t be able to go back!” It is the stance of a society that is adhering doggedly to certain ways of doing things that have allowed them to stay alive until now. Rather than question the quality of that “life”, and ask themselves what else they could possibly be, with a view to the success of other island nations, they prefer to stay “safe”, like the sheep they are so famous for breeding. Unfortunately, Kiwis as a group see science as a one-way street to the Island(s) of Dr. Moreau, despite the fact of having produced some top scientists – via export.

    I am writing this today as yet another immigrant friend is shopping around for airfares home. He has been pingponging back and forth between here, the UK, Oz and S. America but always came back here. He has tried three cities in NZ and even went back to school to study something else. He has given it more than a go, changing things about his situation to see if it was “just him” and not NZ. His conclusion? Pretty place. Toxic people. A fellow expat had complained to him that “people hate you here not just for succeeding, but for just having a go”. It may well be that very attitude that bothers the eminent Lord Winston.

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    • In today’s Stuff we see the headline Rugby World Cup part of school curriculum and learn that from July schools are expected to pay for RWC themed merchandise, including bunting at $1.20 a metre. (What’s wrong with kids making their own strings of flags?)

      Around 480,000 activity books are going to be sent to primary and intermediate schools around the country, for inclusion in the social studies curriculum. That’s a lot of paper, how much did this cost?

      Rugby NZ 2011 director Leon Grice said the programme, developed with the Education Ministry and New Zealand Rugby Union, was a way for children to feel connected to and excited about the event.

      “Given the Rugby World Cup … is going to be the largest event New Zealand has ever staged, and it’s going to be so dominant on the televisions and in households around New Zealand, we wanted to make sure that every school-aged child had access to information about it.

      The question arises – if it is so prominent on TV and in the home why the emphasis on making it high profile on schools as well? is there to be no escape for non-sporting kids, or those who don’t care for rugby.

      Is this really an “educational opportunity” (and we use the words lightly) or just a cynical attempt to rake-in a bit of extra cash to make up a shortfall in revenue?

      The report tells us

      There was no commercial branding on any of the resources, although logos of the Rugby World Cup, RNZ 2011 and NZRU would be displayed on the activity books.

      But how much did it cost to use those logos, were they given freely? What about small businesses trying to make an honest buck from the tournament? they can’t even use the words rugby world cup in their promotional material without having to pay for the privilege.

      The last question is how well used will these promotional materials be if NZ leaves the tournament at an early stage? could be a bit of an own goal for the Education ministry if most of it ends up in the bin.

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