So I looked around / And noticed there wasn’t a chair


It’s fun­ny what a few weeks at home does for the flag wav­ing. A few days back, feel­ing vague­ly and irra­tional­ly offend­ed, I was almost about to rush in and defend New Zealand from Stephen Fry’s attack on our inter­net con­nec­tions after he (now famous­ly) tweet­ed:

[New Zealand has] has prob­a­bly the worst broad­band I’ve ever encoun­tered. Turns itself off, slows to a crawl. Pathetic,”

Because — and just because — it isn’t always.

Once or twice, over the years, I’ve had decent inter­net in NZ. And there is a cafe in Pon­son­by with free wifi (no I’m not telling you where it is).

There was a time of course when we were up there. In the late 1990s and ear­ly 2000s, when Tele­com ASDL first arrived and Ihug offered their satel­lite download/terrestrial upload thingy, we almost had it sort­ed. Trav­el­ling to parts of Asia and Aus­tralia allowed well con­nect­ed folks (read: peo­ple who lived in small zones of Auck­land and Welling­ton) to scoff at many of the places we visited.

We were faster than Sin­ga­pore — or at least a very, very lucky few of us were.

Of course we paid for it — Tele­com’s Xtra was insane­ly over­priced (I had a bill for a grand once from Tele­com when my staff decid­ed that stream­ing Vir­gin Radio from the UK was a pret­ty good time-pass­ing thing to do, and oth­er invoic­es came close) although I was lucky enough to have been giv­en free Ihug con­nec­tions right up until the time Voda­fone took it over, so I guess that com­pen­sat­ed a little.

But most­ly it’s shite as the world has passed us dig­i­tal­ly by, so defend it I can’t and won’t.

This post makes the case well for our fixed inter­net being rub­bish and does­n’t even deal with the non­sense of NZ’s mobile data (for which I pay approx NZ$25 per month with unlim­it­ed data where I now call home), and wifi (Pan-Asia, almost uni­ver­sal wifi — free — in cafes, bars, restau­rants, malls, hotels, air­ports and so on, thus allow­ing me most­ly not to both­er with the afore­said $25pm as my phone flits from hotspot to hotspot).

How­ev­er, if I write such things I’ll be accused of whing­ing. We are allowed to say these things if we live in New Zealand but we are not allowed to make com­ment if we return from abroad — thin skinned does­n’t even begin to describe the fast ris­ing anger that accom­pa­nies any return­ing New Zealan­der mak­ing any com­par­i­son with the rest of the plan­et that isn’t gra­tious­ly pos­i­tive, and with­out qualification.

So I won’t.

What I will make com­ment on is the increas­ing dis­con­nect between the world as she exists and is increas­ing­ly exist­ing, by the inevitable use of the redun­dant phrase: Developed.

And while we’re at it: OECD.

Inevitably the com­men­tary in this case revolved around the posi­tion our coun­try’s inter­net speed and con­nec­tiv­i­ty rat­ed when com­pared to oth­er ‘devel­oped coun­tries’ or the OECD. And it’s both disin­gen­u­ous and utter­ly detached from the 21st Cen­tu­ry’s real­i­ty. It implies that we are some­how part of a small priv­i­leged club that the rest (i.e. the ‘unde­vel­oped’ or ‘devel­op­ing’ bits) sit out­side of.

So lets look at the OECD.

The Organ­i­sa­tion for Eco­nom­ic Co-oper­a­tion and Devel­op­ment is a group­ing formed in 1961. It was, at the time, a fair­ly rea­son­able rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the most advanced nations on the plan­et, using either tech or eco­nom­ic rulers, and the major­i­ty were either in West­ern Europe or North Amer­i­ca. We, with Aus­tralia, were tagged on as part the west­ern grouping.

All fine.

How­ev­er, the world changed. It changed sub­stan­tial­ly, and the creaky old OECD, whilst it has added a cou­ple of coun­tries to the list­ing, now looks like a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the world as she was long, long ago. One won­ders where Sin­ga­pore is? Malaysia? Thai­land? Chi­na? Tai­wan? Argenti­na? Brazil? UAE? Kuwait? Sau­di Ara­bia? All of whom have infra­struc­ture, access to edu­ca­tion and health­care, rel­a­tive pover­ty lev­els, employ­ment, IT etc at least equal to sev­er­al of the OECD coun­tries we so eager­ly place our­selves next to as a mea­sure. When it comes to road­ing, pub­lic trans­port, cost of liv­ing rel­a­tive to wages, and con­nec­tiv­i­ty almost all those coun­ties make us look semi-neolithic.

And the same could be said of the phrase we so adore: the ‘Devel­oped World’ (inten­tion­al­ly cap­i­talised as we would with the titles to all fic­tion). Bernard Hick­ey (who actu­al­ly makes excel­lent sense eco­nom­i­cal­ly some­times I think, and is a real­ist in the face of the nation­al eco­nom­ic delu­sion) is for­ev­er rab­bit­ing on in Nana Her­ald about ‘the devel­oped world’, mak­ing an assump­tion we are part of this horse-has-long-bolt­ed club that we love to think we are part of.

There was a time, of course, and it was­n’t that long ago, when arguably we were part of some­thing a lit­tle like this. We were part of the indus­tri­alised, priv­i­leged over­class that, despite almost being thrashed in WW2 until the USA and the Sovi­ets saved our butts (and even then the defeat­ed were quick­ly re-embraced back into the club), and being a part of the los­ing team that fought to a draw in Korea, and was beat­en sound­ly in Viet­nam & Iraq, was the self anoint­ed meis­ter and comp­trol­ler of Plan­et Earth.

And we still don’t seem to have gone past that.

We, in New Zealand, talk of the Glob­al Eco­nom­ic Cri­sis with­out blink­ing, when the real­i­ty is this ‘glob­al’ cri­sis exists most­ly amongst the so called Devel­oped Nations — and even more pre­cise­ly, amongst that above linked list of the OECD nations.

Much of the rest of the world is doing nice­ly thank you, with boom­ing economies — although dan­ger­ous­ly over­heat­ed, if you heed the end­less warn­ings from the prophets in the so called devel­oped nations. The same ones who got 2008 so very wrong.

So we live in a fan­ta­sy and we mea­sure our­selves against that.

In the same way we spoke fond­ly until the last part of the 20th Cen­tu­ry of the UK as home, we now instead attach our­selves to a world which has long since passed, and it a way that no oth­er coun­try I’ve vis­it­ed does — aside per­haps from Aus­tralia who even more slav­ish­ly regard them­selves as a play­er in a long past West­ern Alliance that has strug­gled to deal with a post cold war real­i­ty defined by the morass that is Amer­i­ca’s end­less 9/11 wars. How­ev­er, even they seem to have grasped that the group­ing we think of as our elite mem­bers club is large­ly a delusion.

That bird has long since flown.

Even Amer­i­can Excep­tion­al­ism seems to have been bat­tered just a lit­tle in recent years post Iraq then 2008.

Before any­one gets iras­ci­bly hot and both­ered, it’s not that our time has in any way passed, nor that we are a less­er nation or now sub­servient to anoth­er new group­ing (although some of the awful igno­rance and self-right­eous­ly enti­tled racist com­men­tary that sur­round­ed the Cra­far Farms deba­cle you’d think we had armed child-roast­ing bar­bar­ians bash­ing at the gates). No, it’s just that the world we like to think we are part of, the “Devel­oped World” no longer exists as an iden­ti­fi­able enti­ty beyond our nation­al col­lec­tive consciousness.

Peo­ple in Shang­hai live longer than New York­ers, there are worse slums in the vast hous­ing estates of the UK than any city in Malaysia and the pub­lic trans­port in any city in of the Asian nations I list­ed above is bet­ter, more effi­cient, clean­er and cheap­er than any­where in Aus­trala­sia, Lon­don or New York City.

Instead of plac­ing our­selves arro­gant­ly as part of some enti­tled elite that no longer exists it may be time to push that aside and enter the wider world we are now part of — like it or not.


I promise the next post will be glo­ri­ous­ly positive.


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Glenn Cas­sidy on Facebook
February 24, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Spot on… and real­ly, how do we wake them up? How do we stop peo­ple leaving?

Michael Mol­loy on Facebook
February 24, 2012 at 3:58 pm

wow…if only we all thought like this…NZ is SO third world on SO many issues yet if you point that out you get fig­u­ra­tive­ly bashed by the Head-in-the-Sand brigade.…it’s SUCH a mess here.…

Rachel McCarthy on Facebook
February 24, 2012 at 9:23 pm

Oh dear 🙁

February 25, 2012 at 5:43 am

I don’t think NZ or more or less than a mess than many of the coun­tries we like to com­pare our­selves to, but the ruler we try and place our­selves next to is bro­ken. The world has changed…

Mar­tin Stow­ers on Facebook
February 25, 2012 at 10:14 am

Well writ­ten Simon.

February 26, 2012 at 6:17 am


Hi, Simon.
I’ve got a pile of Rip It Ups here; about 45 issues, ’88-’93 (+1 from Jan.’80, for some reason)
in basi­cal­ly very good condition.
Yours if you want ’em or else some­one you nominate.
Can drop off in Auckland.
Let me know if you or some­one would want them.


February 26, 2012 at 6:25 am

hell yes. Send me an email.

I’m in Ak till Weds morn­ing but can arrange to meet if that works for you.

February 26, 2012 at 7:32 am

Good. Mes­saged to bpm address.

March 3, 2012 at 12:42 pm

point taken…only yes­ter­day co work­er just back from malaysia bark­ing on to oth­ers how dirty streets were ‚run down houses,dogs just roam­ing everywhere…i said ’ you talk­ing about papaku­ra then’

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