Hehir defends sleepy hobbits

Liam Hehir writes:

Faced with rejection at the polls, pundits like to find fault with the electorate.

Prominent Left-winger Martyn Bradbury, for example, likes to call New Zealanders “sleepy hobbits”. The idea is that we are too fond of simple pleasures to engage with revolution and ideology. 

He intends this as criticism, of course. The problem is that I’ve never really understood why we should take offence at the suggestion. 

Things aren’t perfect in this country and, actually, they never will be. Imperfection is part of the human condition. Societies reflect the imperfections of the individuals and families which inhabit them. I don’t mean to say that we should be blind to the injustices around us. 

Nor should we be complacent about the threats to what we have. Nevertheless, is it really such a bad thing to desire a pleasant life? 

I think some activists do not understand that most families are focused on what really matters – have they got a job, a decent income, good schools, a good healthcare system, good friends and a pleasant life. They are not obsessed by what someone said on Twitter.

I am also not saying we haven’t had periods that were, relative to today, fractious and violence. The New Zealand Wars, the Waihi miners’ strike and the 1981 Springbok Tour are all examples of troubled times in our history. It would be naive to think we won’t go through such times again.

But we are not living in those times now. In the most recent Roy Morgan survey, 60.5 per cent of respondents said they think the country is on the right track. Just 27 per cent said we are on the wrong track. Sentiment has remained at around those levels since 2008.

Roy Morgan’s most recent numbers for Australia have 40.5 per cent approval and 38.5 per cent disapproval. According to the Real Clear Politics average, the numbers for Americans are 34.8 per cent and 58.6 per cent respectively. I can’t find recent figures for Britain but I am willing to guess they’re not very pretty. 

The UK is around 40% approval and 60% disapproval. So net approval in the UK is -20%, in the US -24% and in NZ it is +33%. Some on the left don’t understand this.

And if it seems strange, try to think about some of the things which we aren’t going through.

The country is not paralysed by political gridlock. It is not constantly swapping governments. We are not always on the brink of a constitutional breakdown. We are not stalked by the terrorism of radical extremists. We do not kill each other over our religious differences. We don’t have people committing mass murders because that’s what they think God wants them to do.

I think the biggest factor is we have effective Government. The fact we have no upper chamber, no states and a Government that has to have the confidence of Parliament means things actually get done. You may not agree with them all, but in no way is Government broken like in some countries.

We are not a flawless people by any means. But this is still a country where fatal road accidents remain shocking enough to lead the news bulletins. We do know how lucky we are. Can you really blame us if, having looked at the outside world, we prefer the quietude of the Shire?

By coincidence I’ve just visited Hobbiton. A great tourist attraction that now employs around 250 people.

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